New conditions okayed for Central Vista revamp

The environment ministry’s expert appraisal committee (EAC) has conditionally approved new terms of reference for the development or redevelopment of common central secretariat buildings .a central conference centre, the Prime Minister’s Residence, Vice President’s Enclave and a building for the Special Protection Group (SPG) as part of the Central Vista project.

EAC specified as many as 18 conditions, asking the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) to list the environmental, social and economic benefits of the project and the cumulative impact of all developements undertaken in the Central Vista avenue including its effect on baseline environmental quality, according to the minutes of a December 17 EAC meeting published on Monday.

CPWD was asked to provide data on land, groundwater, surface water, air, biodiversity, noise and vibration, socio-economic and health impacts and spell out detailed plans for the demolition of existing structures, groundwater recharge and traffic management and submit a recommendation from the Delhi Urban Arts Commission (DUAC).

CPWD, the project developer, submitted in a presentation to EAC that the common central secretariat will consolidate all ministries of the Centre and improve productivity and efficiency of administration.

Read more| Central Vista green approval: Consolidated plan submitted

The central conference centre will cater to the ministries’ conferencing needs. These will also be connected by an automated people mover to the Delhi Metro. Modern and secure residential facilities will be built for the Prime Minister and the Vice President, according to the minutes of the EAC’s December 17 meeting.

An earlier application by CPWD to amend the terms of reference for the project to add several new components of construction was rejected by EAC on grounds that the former had been seeking clearances in a piecemeal fashion.. EAC observed in the minutes of a meeting published on November 25 that CPWD should refrain from the piecemeal approach for the proposed development and redevelopment of projects in the Central Vista.

Approval for terms of reference signifies the initial clearance needed for any development project. After its application to amend was rejected, CPWD submitted a fresh proposal . In CPWD’s revised proposal, there was no mention of the Prime Minister’s Office, which found a mention in previous one.

The total built-up area has been reduced from 18,37,057 sq.m to 17,21, 500 sq.m, but the cost of the redevelopment project has increased by Rs 1,656 crore, from Rs.11,794 crore to Rs. 13,450 crore.

According to the minutes of the latest EAC meeting, 10 petitions against various features of the Central Vista project are pending in the Supreme Court.

Read more| Central Vista revamp: MPs’ offices to come up in place of two buildings

The minutes suggest that around 4,58,820.0 sq m of built-up area will need to be demolished as part of the project. The buildings on the site include the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts (IGNCA), Shastri Bhavan, Krishi Bhavan, Vigyan Bhavan, VP Residency, National Museum, Jawahar Bhavan, Nirman Bhavan, Udyog Bhavan, Raksha Bhavan and INS Hutments.

“All buildings are RCC {reinforced concrete} frame structures with infill masonry walls. The structures are of G+5 to G+6 storey. Since the building is situated in a very sensitive area, adequate care and precaution will be taken to reduce noise and dust while ensuring appropriate safety. Buildings will be fully covered from all sides with appropriate staging/barricading and covering using appropriate green cloth or sheets for full building height so as to control and contain the dust/debris within the building premises,” CPWD said in its proposal.

When asked to respond on the pollution impact of the redevelopment project, a ministry of urban affairs spokesperson said: “Utmost care with sprinklers and water guns and high barricading will ensure minimal pollution.”

“The minutes do not reflect the enormous scale of challenges posed by this project even though these issues have been communicated to the EAC several times through numerous letters and has been discussed in the media and in courts all through 2020. The EAC has asked the project to explain the benefits of this project. Why is the EAC not interested in the problems that citizens have identified with this project? Who will be a neutral referee for this government project’s environmental assessment?” asked Manju Menon, a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research think tank.

Read more| ‘Shouldn’t be a fait accompli’: Supreme Court allows Central Vista ceremony, not work

According to the tender for the next phase of the Central Vista redevelopment project— the redevelopment and restructuring of the Central Vista Avenue, which includes most of the Rajpath stretch and the row of government offices that are parallel to it– the contractors will have to install air purifiers and keep construction noise under preset thresholds, HT reported on November 9.

The successful bidders shall follow green construction practices and get a periodic green audit conducted. “The contractor will also have to install air quality monitors, requiring a number of air purifiers to maintain air quality index below acceptable levels of PM 2.5 — within 150 [for] up to 500m from the site of work — during the entire construction period,” the tender said.

The second phase of the project will include the demolition of dozens of office buildings. Broadly, the plan includes razing buildings such as Shastri Bhawan, Udyog Bhawan and Krishi Bhawan that house important government ministries to build a common secretariat for roughly 70,000 central government employees who are spread over 30 buildings now.

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