Activists 'disappointed' by SC's approval to Central Vista project

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New Delhi, Jan 5 (PTI) The Supreme Court's nod to the government's grandiose Central Vista Project on Tuesday left environment activists 'disappointed' and 'disheartened'.

The apex court, in its majority verdict of 2:1, upheld the environmental clearance and notification for change in land use for the Central Vista project.

Environmentalist Bhavreen Kandhari said the project is harmful for the environment and is an encroachment of public place by the government.

'It is a very disheartening verdict. This project is very harmful for the environment. Delhi is the most polluted city on earth. Trees are already being cut.

'This project is an encroachment of open places, which are meant for the public, by government. This is land grabbing in every way,' Kandhari said.

Expressing a similar view, Lt Col Anuj Srivastava (Retd), an architect and an activist from LokPATH who is also one of the petitioners in the case, said more deliberation and public consultation was required in the project before it could be approved.

'It's a 611 page judgement. The court heard us patiently. The judgement is a split one but we are quite disheartened and disappointed. More deliberation and public consultation in a project of this nature is required. 'Are we leaving something for our children that we will be proud of? We are exploring our legal options in consultation with our lawyers. But we are deeply disappointed,' Srivastava said.

Besides giving a go-ahead to the over Rs 13,450 crore project, the three-judge bench of the apex court also insisted that the clearance of the Heritage Conservation Committee (HCC) will be mandatory and the same should be obtained by the project consultant before proceeding with the development work.

The HCC is headed by Special/Additional Secretary of Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.

It also directed that the project developers will have to install smog tower and use anti-smog guns at all construction sites.

Reacting to the verdict, Manju Menon, Senior Fellow, Centre for Policy Research, said the mitigation measures upheld by the court that include smog towers are well-known public failures already. 'The environment clearance granted to the New Parliament were challenged on several important grounds such as the lack of detailed and cumulative impact assessments, the integrated nature of the cv redevelopment and Parliament being only a component, and the lack of any thinking by government on alternatives that may be less environmentally damaging. 'The fact that there is a dissenting view from the bench vindicates the petitioners' positions that these issues deserved to be examined and corrected. The mitigation measures upheld by the court that include smog towers and transplantation are well-known public failures already. They cannot address the environmental problems of this city that can be aggravated by a massive project of this nature,' Menon said.

The redevelopment project of the Central Vista -- the nation's power corridor -- envisages a new triangular Parliament building, a common central secretariat and revamping of the three-km-long Rajpath, from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate.

According to the government's latest proposal for the redevelopment of the Central Vista, the prime minister's new residential complex will have 10 four-storey buildings with a maximum height of 12 metres.

The Central Public Works Department (CPWD), which is executing the project, has revised the estimated cost from Rs 11,794 crore to Rs 13,450 crore. PTI AG AAR AAR