Core Issues with the Proposed Central Vista Redevelopment Project

1. Incorrect Approach :

(a) No preliminary studies seem have been carried out or tabled in public domain whether of needs vs existing resources, environmental impact and heritage assessment or transport studies.

(b) No public consultation seem have been carried out or tabled in public domain prior to planning of this project .

(c) We are not aware if even Parliament has been consulted.
(d) Everything is moving at top speed without any heed to public opinion.

(e) Lack of Transparency. There is no information on the project available in the public domain apart from the selective releases in the press and interview by various individuals or unnamed ministry officials involved with the project.

(f) Uncertainty of Expansion of Parliament. Population is going to decline after 2061, hence delimitation exercise will be infructous. Expansion of Parliament may not take place and even if it does, it will be to a very limited extent. Adaptive reuse of Parliament is the way forward rather than fossilising it.

(g) Concentration of all government offices in one location uncalled for & potentially disastrous. Traffic, with over 70,000 employees alone in the area is going to be a nightmare. Construction and its allied activities will result in an unmitigated environmental disaster.
(h) Disavowal of Less government and more Governance is the motto for the future. Decentralisation and delegation rather than concentration of power. Security related issues with centralisation will be a major matter of concern.

(i) Upgradation of infrastructure can be done without large scale demolition and construction afresh.

2. Public Space related:
(a) Drastic reduction in Open Spaces : DDA is changing land use post haste brushing aside all objections on the directions and based on the design of the CPWD appointed Consultant.

(b) Removal of socio-cultural aspects of this Zone by altering Master Plans (Zone D of MPD 2021) belong to the whole city (and the nation). They cannot be drastically reduced. They are held in fiduciary capacity by the government of the day.

(c) Converting public lawns into ornamental gardens. The Central Vista with high security buildings in the neighbourhood will be barricaded like the stretch on Raisina hill between North and South Block.

3. Heritage related issues.
(a) Parliament is Living Heritage. The use of the building as Grade 1 heritage is protected under extant heritage laws and the UBBL 2016. Legislative continuity is essential. Retrofit and adaptive reuse is the way forward.

(b) Supposed concerns about Seismic stability. The existing structure’s seismic stability has not been assessed. This is possible and should be done for all buildings in the Central Vista Area rather than making vague statements not backed by any technical data.
(c) Demeaning Parliament:The construction of a new new parliament building in very close proximity to the existing Parliament but of a volume (“triangular”) and facade (“unique windows to reflect the diversity of India”) without empathy to its cylindrical, collonaded volume would greatly diminish the stature of our sacred temple of our democracy. The new Parliament due to its shape and volume will be much larger than the existing one, severely degrading its stature and disrupting its immediate skyline and visage (both of which are part of the heritage being protected by extending Grade I Heritage status to the Central Vista itself).
(d) Making India Gate Insignificant. The magnificence of the Central Vista is emphasised by India Gate and this is why the present area of Central Vista itself is categorised as a Grade 1 heritage. Hence building multistoreyed structures encroaching into this visage would degrade the status of this iconic space.
(e) Fossilising buildings. The use of the buildings is also protected under extant heritage bye laws and hence their conversion into museums will fossilise them and make them totally redundant.
(f) Destruction of Cultural and Civic Hub. The master plan reflected this as a cultural hub and removing these buildings from here will render this infructuous.
(g) Large scale destruction including of relatively new public buildings. Demolition of National Museum, MEA building and National Archives as well as IGNCA is being planned leading to loss of major heritage of the country.
4. Traffic related.
(a) “Republic Day” style restrictions almost permanently for 4-5 years will be the result of the large scale construction planned in the extremely short period of time .

(b) Around 400-1000 daily truck trips into the centre of town are indicated : traffic logjam ripple effect may flow well outward
(c) Further short term congestion due to travel of construction to the already choked metro stations in the vicinity during peak hours.
(d) Further long term congestion due to addition of 35,000 additional Govt employees vicinity during peak hours.

(e) Possible huge jams resultant on all of Delhi’s arterials during peak hours may be the result of the Central Vista becoming a high security zone with increased govt. vehicles & drastically reduced normal traffic .

5. Environment related:
(a) Construction will convert the entire area into a dust bowl, no amount of mitigating measures will compensate the severe degradation of our already downgraded environment.

(b) Large scale tree cutting is planned in all the plots proposed for new construction.
(c) A vast underground interconnecting public transport system is being proposed under the Central Vista. This will disrupt the water table of the area threatening the heritage verdancy of the precinct
(d) Dense woodland behind Mughal Gardens in Rashtrapati Bhavan being converted to an Arboretum (or museum of trees) that will contain exotic species from all over India, to represent India‘s diversity. The area mentioned in the quote is currently an ecosphere of a bio-diverse flora and fauna that grows healthily in Delhi’s particular climate and soil type. To try and grow exotic plants from other climatic zones would endanger the native species and disrupt the ecological interdependence this area has evolved. Further, throwing it open to high footfall traffic will disturb the peace currently enjoyed by the flora and fauna in that ecological area. It is anything but a Bio-diversity park. It will have to come under Recreational Green which degrades the sanctity of its current land use as President‘s Estate.\

6. Basic Process Related Issues

(a) Lack of Consultation of Statutory and representative bodies. like the DUAC, HCC, CVC, DDA. In any case they are also staffed by mostly government officials. The views of professional bodies like the COA, INTACH, IIA, ISOLA and IUDI have not been taken into consideration.

7. Tender & Incorrect Process Related Issues

(a) Best way forward is to have an open design competition with an extremely eminent professional jury, monitored by COA as per guidelines. Despite Institutional bodies writing for this, no response was given by the Government. followed in the case of war memorial also.

(b) Absence of a Comprehensive Brief. There was total lack of information on either the scope or intent of the project with an open ended brief which did not lay down any guidelines for the project.

(c) Bidders not evaluated at par Evaluation was done on broad concept design only with 80 percent marks awarded to the technical evaluation which was conducted in an opaque manner..

(d) Financial bids based on slabs which cause loss to public exchequer.

(e) Details of Design not released. The details of the design have not been released except by selective leaks in newspapers and interviews.

(f) No Public Consultation. No transparent public consultation has been held with stakeholders, professionals or civil society.

(g) Finalisation of consultant with wide ranging powers to alter land use and deal with sensitive environment and heritage related issues without due deliberation and public consultation.

(h) Lack of Control and oversight. With the consultant being given a free hand, there are no institutional checks and balances. Most of the oversight committees h*-ave minimum representation from professionals with government ex officio members holding sway.

8. Cost Related.
(a) Huge unnecessary expenditure to the public exchequer. The total project cost is estimated to be approx 25000 crores with 2,50,000 sq m construction being planned. Such fiscal profligacy in the depressed financial environment appears to be severely misplaced.

(b) Haste makes waste. The tight deadlines and the carte blanche given to the consultant will further exacerbate the problems including fiscal issues related to choice of materials and other concerns related to construction. Damage to heritage structures as a result of this cannot be ruled out.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *