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Central Vista project: Environmentalists call fresh GoI proposal arbitrary, piecemeal

By Our Representative

A uniform letter, sent by a large number of environmental experts from across India to T Haque, chairman, Experts Assessment Commission (EAC) under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Government of India (GoI), has expressed shock over the submission of a fresh revised proposal on the Central Vista project in Delhi for approval, calling the move “arbitrarily”.
Titled “Development/ Redevelopment Of Common Central Secretariat Buildings and Central Conference Centre Along With Prime Minister’s Residence, SPG Building and Vice President’s Enclave, New Delhi”, the new proposal was submitted to AEC on December 17.
Stating that the proposal appears to “completely undermine” pending challenges in the Supreme Court against the project proponents – Central Public Work Department (CPWD) and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs ( MoHUA) – the letter regretted, similar submissions were made in the past also “failed to disclose all the components of the project.”
“We appreciate the fact that EAC had taken a strong and considered position during the last meeting when the project had been returned to the project proponent indicating that they should not follow a ‘piecemeal approach’ and revert with an ‘integrated project’. We would like to point out that this proposal is still ‘piecemeal’ and not integrated”, the letter – forwarded to Counterview by one of the signatories, Gujarat-based environmentalist Rohit Prajapati – said.
Pointing towards how CPWD and MoHUA have refused to disclose all the components of the project in the past, the letter said, the December 9 proposal “arbitrability removed the Prime Minister’s Office i.e. Plot 36 from the proposal” without giving any explanation on why they were doing this. Further, the December 9 proposal “reduced built-up area of 17,21,500 sqm as against 18,37,057.35 sqm “without any disclosure of why and how the project consultants and the project proponents have introduced these changes.”
Further, the December 9 proposal refused to include the mew Parliament building, the new India Garden, the underground transit, all of which have been reported in the media to be part of the Central Vista redevelopment. “These standalone components will either not be placed before the environment ministry or introduced at a later stage once again indicating a piecemeal approach as has been rightly observed by the EAC”, the letter said.
Ironically, said the letter, “While the government has decreased the built-up area the cost of the project has increased from INR 11,794 crore in November 2020 to INR 13,450 crore in the present proposal.”
Accusing of the government of turning the project proposal to EAC into “mockery in full public view”, the letter said, “The proposal is being pushed through with utter disregard of the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification and continues to challenge the mandate of the EAC for detailed scrutiny. The application clearly gives the impression that that the project proponent is not aware that they are applying for an environmental approval and not for a building approval.”
Asking EAC to “exercise its authority and responsibility to seek full disclosure from the project proponent regarding the various components”, the letter insisted, only when this is done, it should issue terms of reference for the project proponents.

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