The Central Public Works Department’s (CPWD) proposal of the ‘New Parliament Building’ project got a nod by the environment ministry’s expert appraisal committee (EAC) on April 23, 2020.
The ‘New Parliament Building’ project was a part of the government’s larger 20,000 crores Central Vista Project, estimated to cost Rs. 922 crore. The new 42-metre high parliament building will have four floors including a basement. The CPWD has said there is no proposal to demolish the existing Parliament building. Instead, it is for “structural strengthening and renovation of interiors and utilities”. However, Some old buildings within the Parliament complex, covering 5,200 square metres, will be demolished.
Amidst the lockdown restrictions, the central vista committee held a meeting through video conference on April 23. It included two members from the Institute of Town Planners (ITP) and two from the Indian Institute of Architects (IIA). They went ahead without any external members in attendance. Balbir Verma, a representative of the IIA on the committee, said the meeting took place despite “all non-government experts from the IIA and the Institute of Town Planners asking for a postponement and having the meeting after the conditions of movement are eased”. The committee, in its defense, said, “Keeping in view the importance of the project in the nation’s interest and time scale for its implementation, the meeting was held as per issued meeting notice”.
Several objections spring up with this. The first being that the EAC is considering the project when the whole country is experiencing a crisis due to coronavirus pandemic. The priority during this time must be medical facilities and public health infrastructure. It is deplorable that the proposal for constructing a new Parliament continues to be treated as a priority and listed for environmental approval. Congress criticized the government for moving forward with the plan and said that it showed the government’s “absurd priorities” at a time when the country was facing a health crisis during the lockdown.
Another objection pointed out the 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 precise 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.”
There were also issues regarding the air and noise pollution caused by the initiation of the project. The CPWD clarified that the project would not lead to an increase in air and noise pollution and the water consumption would decrease due to the reuse of treated water.
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