The environment impact assessment (EIA) carried out for setting up of the Integrated Exhibition-cum-Convention Centre (IECC) at Pragati Maidan came under scrutiny Wednesday, with the National Green Tribunal observing that the EIA appeared “erroneous” and seemed like it was conducted by a “fly by night consultant”.
The bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice AK Goel gave the India Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO) three weeks to convene a meeting with stakeholders of the project. The bench was hearing a plea filed by Verhaen Khanna, challenging the environment clearance granted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests to the IECC.
The bench questioned the commencement of work even before the environment clearance was granted, and the role of MoEF in allowing the work to continue. “The moment a case is filed, certain aspects of the project are being challenged and these are critical issues,” the bench noted, demanding an explanation from ITPO’s counsel.
The NGT asked the ITPO to submit a more robust affidavit detailing the environment studies that have been carried out for the project. The bench noted that the EIA did not mention concepts such as the ‘cumulative impact assessment’ of the project or include ‘incremental air pollution studies.’
“The magnitude of the project is too high, the impacts have to be studied in detail,” the bench observed. “I find it to be quote cursory,” the bench noted. It also said that if this was the state of the EIA, “it is clear that the MoEF has not applied its mind.”
The bench further said that suggestions put forth for managing traffic congestion in the area, will help only for a little while. “What is required is a complete policy which is city or country-specific, not just project specific,” Justice Goel said, adding, “You cannot divorce one area of Delhi from another…” It was in January 2017 that the Union Cabinet approved the proposal of ITPO to develop Pragati Maidan at a total cost of Rs 2,254 crore.
Counsel for ITPO, Sanjay Jain, making the case for “importance of the convention centre” said that a lot of international exhibitions have moved away from Delhi for want of such a space. “It is a time-bound project,” he said. “There are several international events lined up in 2019 and it is the anxiety to meet the timeline.”
In arguments earlier in the week, it was revealed that two of the city’s iconic landmarks at Pragati Maidan — Hall of Nations and Hall of Industries — were reduced to rubble six months before applying for permission to begin the redevelopment work.
Counsel for the petitioner, senior advocate Riwtick Dutta, told the bench that ITPO should produce a copy of the ‘Consent to Establish’ that was granted for the work to begin. “There is only a copy of the application that is submitted asking for permission under the Air Act and Water Act but the actual CoE has not been produced,” he said. A CoE is a first step — a crucial permission needed by industries before the commencement of work.