Updated: May 3, 2020 7:07:23 am
The Environment Ministry has cleared the construction of an additional Parliament building, a part of the government’s controversial Rs 20,000-crore Central Vista project. The ministry’s expert appraisal committee (EAC) cleared the project on April 22 based on clarifications from the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) to objections received by the Ministry in the stipulated 30-day period since the project proposal was first submitted to the Ministry.
The Ministry has so far received 1,292 objections.
The project, listed as the “Expansion and Renovation of existing Parliament Building at Parliament Street”, proposes a new building with a proposed built-up area of 65,000 square metres, adjacent to the plot where the existing Parliament building stands.
The new 42-metre high building will have a basement and three floors. The CPWD has said there is no proposal to demolish the existing Parliament building. Instead, the plan is for “structural strengthening and renovation of interiors and utilities”. Some old buildings within the Parliament complex, covering 5,200 square metres, will, however, be demolished.
One of the “observations”— as the objections have been listed by the panel — stated: “The EAC is considering this project when the entire country is under lockdown and dealing with a health emergency. At a time of the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to prioritise government spending for medical facilities and public health infrastructure. It is extremely unfortunate that the proposal for constructing a new Parliament continues to be treated as a priority and listed for environmental approval…”
In response, the CPWD stated: “The existing Parliament building was constructed 93 years ago. Over the years many planned/unplanned changes have been made, often undocumented. It is in dire need of retrofitting as soon as possible. This can only be done once the building is in vacant position and that will happen once the new building is made available. Therefore, development of the proposed Parliament building is of utmost importance.”
The CPWD also stated that a larger building is “needed for better functioning of the Legislature”, that the project will provide short- and long-term employment opportunities, and that it will make a positive contribution to “social infrastructure and overall development of the region”.
Another objection pointed out the “singular” heritage value of the Central Vista and Parliament, to which the CPWD responded: “The project proponents are aware of the heritage value of the Parliament building. It is precisely because of the need to protect its heritage value, besides other practical aspects such as seating more members for the future and providing them with necessary infrastructure, that the project has been conceived…”
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