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India: Withdraw Environment Clearance to ’Central Vista Project’: Divert Rs 20,000 crores to Public Health | NAPM 20 May 2020

20 May

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National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM)
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NAPM demands withdrawal of the hasty Environment Clearance granted to the Central Vista Project

20,000 crores investment must be in public health, not pompous infrastructure

20th May, 2020: NAPM express its grave concern at the numerous recent moves of the Govt of India to dilute pro-people, pro-environment legislation and push forth massive projects that are detrimental to national interest. Instead of investing in robust public health infrastructure, amidst the worst pandemic, the nation-wide ‘lockdown’ is being used as an opportunity to ‘clear’ many controversial projects. It is alarming that the environment, forest and wildlife clearance process for as many as 191 large-scale mining, infrastructure and industrial projects is underway through ‘video-meetings’ of the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) where many projects are considered in a time-span of just about ’10 minutes’!

The much-hyped Central Vista Project is one such ill-conceived proposal that has recently been cleared, despite a lot of objections from environmentalists, historians and concerned citizens. Based on the EAC’s recommendations dated 22nd April, MoEF & CC granted Conditional Environmental Clearance for construction of a new additional Parliament building, which is a part of the ambitious Rs 20,000 crore Central Vista Project. That the serious objections raised in the 1300 submissions to EAC have not been adequately considered is a sad reflection of the state of environmental governance at the highest levels!

The Central Vista Project envisages a ‘revamp’ of the entire 3-km long Rajpath, including South and North blocks of Central Secretariat and also the Parliament House of India. This revamp also entails that the North and South Block would be converted into museums and many critical offices like Krishi Bhavan, Nirman, Bhavan, Vignan Bhavan may have to be demolished. The proposal is to construct a new 900-seater Parliament building by July 2022 and a common Central Secretariat by March 2024.

It is not surprising that this wasteful expenditure will be projected as yet another patriotic prop before the 2024 elections! It is equally not surprising that a Gujarat-based architecture firm HCP Design, Planning and Management Private Limited has been given tender for the Project. Infact, in a recent letter addressed to the Prime Minister and the Union Housing and Urban Affairs Minister, around 60 retired bureaucrats have expressed serious concerns regarding the selection of the consultant architect and have said, “a hastily drafted and inappropriate tender was rushed through in record time to select an architectural firm in what was an extremely flawed process”. Akin to ‘PM Cares’, which is shrouded in secrecy, the Central Vista Project is yet another mammoth project which conceals more than it reveals !

There are multiple legal challenges to the Project in the Delhi High Court and the Apex Court on the grounds that the Project would lead to illegal change in land use and that it contravenes the Delhi Master Plan-2021 of ‘decentralizing the government offices in the national capital’. The legal tenability is also questioned on the plank that when the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) already invited objections to the proposal vide Notice dt. 19th Dec 2019 and the same was challenged in the SC, a fresh notice dated 20th March, 2020 could not have been issued by DDA, and that the same would tantamount to ‘interference in the administration of justice’. It is contended that if the project is implemented, the green cover in thee Central Vista of Lutyens’ Delhi would decrease from the existing 86% to 9% and of the 105 acres of the Central Vista, at least 90 acres is classified as public, semi-public district parks and neighbourhood play areas.

The Central Vista Project also violates provisions of the 2003 UNESCO Declaration concerning the ‘Intentional Destruction of Cultural Heritage’, to which India as a member state, is a signatory. Infact, what is not widely known is that an earlier proposal by the UPA Govt. in Jan 2014 to UNESCO to grant World Heritage Site status to “Delhi’s Imperial Capital Cities” was ‘withdrawn’ by the Modi Govt, without specifying any reason. It is not hard to understand why, since this regime did not want any questioning of the mindless tinkering of heritage sites of historical value by the world body.

The EAC and MoEF have a long history of rushing through decisions on such mammoth projects, even when objections are not objectively considered and litigation is pending, to create a situation of “fait accompli’’! Although many such ‘mega-infrastructure’ projects are hugely damaging the environment, enviro-legal safeguard mechanisms and authorities have been failing to defend the law of the land. It is indeed unfortunate that in a recent hearing, even the Supreme Court did not consider the matter “urgent enough” to be heard during lockdown, despite many serious objections and the fact that the Project would potentially and irreversibly change the whole landscape of the area.

NAPM demands that MoEF must immediately withdraw the questionable clearance granted to the Central Vista Project. If indeed ‘PMCARES’, the Govt of India must shelve this Project permanently and the huge corpus of Rs. 20,000 crores must instead be diverted to the Ministry of Health to strengthen public health infrastructure.

Medha Patkar, Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) and National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM); Dr. Sunilam, Adv. Aradhna Bhargava, Kisan Sangharsh Samiti; Rajkumar Sinha, Chutka Parmaanu Virodhi Sangharsh Samiti, NAPM, Madhya Pradesh;

Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey, Shankar Singh, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), National Campaign for People’s Right to Information; Kavita Srivastava, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL); Kailash Meena NAPM Rajasthan;

Prafulla Samantara, Lok Shakti Abhiyan; Lingraj Azad, Samajwadi Jan Parishad & Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti, Manorama, Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti; Lingaraj Pradhan, Satya banchor, Anant, Kalyan Anand, Arun Jena, Trilochan Punji, Lakshimipriya Mohanty and Balakrishna Sand, Manas Patnaik, NAPM Odisha;

Sandeep Pandey, SP(I); Richa Singh, Rambeti, Sangatin Kisaan Mazdoor Sangathan; Rajeev Yadav, Rihai Manch; Suresh Rathaur, Mahendra, MNREGA Mazdoor Union; Arundhati Dhuru, Manesh Gupta, Arvind Murti, Satish Singh, Jagriti Rahi, Altamas Ansari, Zainab Khatun, Nakul Singh Sawney, Mashiuddin, NAPM, Uttar Pradesh;

P. Chennaiah, Andhra Pradesh Vyavasaya Vruthidarula Union-APVVU, Ramakrishnam Raju, United Forum for RTI and NAPM, Chakri (Samalochana), Balu Gadi, Bapji Juvvala, NAPM Andhra Pradesh;

Jeevan Kumar & Syed Bilal (Human Rights Forum), P. Shankar (Dalit Bahujan Front), Vissa Kiran Kumar & Kondal (Rythu Swarajya Vedika), Ravi Kanneganti (Rythu JAC), Ashalatha (MAKAAM), Krishna (Telangana Vidyavantula Vedika-TVV), M. Venkatayya (Telangana Vyavasaya Vruttidarula Union-TVVU), Meera Sanghamitra, Rajesh Serupally, NAPM Telangana;

Sister Celia, Domestic Workers Union; Maj Gen (Retd) S.G.Vombatkere, NAPM, Nawaz, Dwiji, Nalini, NAPM Karnataka

Gabriele Dietrich, Penn Urimay Iyakkam, Madurai; Geetha Ramakrishnan, Unorganised Sector Workers Federation; Suthanthiran, Suthanthiran, Lenin & Arul Doss, NAPM Tamilnadu;

Vilayodi Venugopal, CR Neelakandan, Prof. Kusumam Joseph, Sharath Cheloor, Vijayaraghavan Cheliya, Majeendran, Magline, NAPM, Kerala;

Dayamani Barla, Aadivasi-Moolnivasi Astivtva Raksha Samiti; Basant Hetamsaria, Aloka Kujur, Dr. Leo A. Singh, Afzal Anish, Sushma Biruli, Durga Nayak, Jipal Murmu, Priti Ranjan Dash, Ashok Verma, NAPM Jharkhand;

Anand Mazgaonkar, Swati Desai, Krishnakant, Parth, Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti; Nita Mahadev, Mudita, Lok Samiti; Dev Desai, Mujahid Nafees, Ramesh Tadvi, Aziz Minat and Bharat Jambucha, NAPM Gujarat;

Vimal Bhai,Matu Jan sangathan; Jabar Singh, Uma, NAPM, Uttarakhand;

Manshi Asher and Himshi Singh, Himdhara, Himachal Pradesh

Gautam Bandopadhyay, Nadi Ghati Morcha; Kaladas Dahariya, RELAA, NAPM Chhattisgarh;

Samar Bagchi, Amitava Mitra, Binayak Sen, Sujato Bhadro, Pradip Chatterjee, Pasarul Alam, Amitava Mitra, Tapas Das, Tahomina Mandal, Pabitra Mandal, Kazi Md. Sherif, Biswajit Basak, Ayesha Khatun, Rupak Mukherjee, Milan Das, Asit Roy, Mita Bhatta, Yasin, Matiur Rahman, Baiwajit Basa, NAPM West Bengal;

Suniti SR, Sanjay M G, Suhas Kolhekar, Prasad Bagwe, Mukta Srivastava, Yuvraj Gatkal, Geetanjali Chavan, Bilal Khan, Jameela, Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan; Chetan Salve, Narmada Bachao Andolan, NAPM Maharashtra;

Faisal Khan, Khudai Khidmatgar, J S Walia, NAPM Haryana;

Guruwant Singh, NAPM Punjab;

Kamayani Swami, Ashish Ranjan, Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan; Mahendra Yadav, Kosi Navnirman Manch; Sister Dorothy, Aashray Abhiyan, NAPM Bihar;

Rajendra Ravi, NAPM; Bhupender Singh Rawat, Jan Sangharsh Vahini; Anjali Bharadwaj and Amrita Johri, Satark Nagrik Sangathan; Sanjeev Kumar, Dalit Adivasi Shakti Adhikar Manch; Anita Kapoor, Delhi Shahri Mahila Kaamgaar Union; Sunita Rani, National Domestic Workers Union; Nanhu Prasad, National Cyclist Union; Madhuresh Kumar, Priya Pillai, Aryaman Jain, Divyansh Khurana, Evita Das; Anil TV, Delhi Solidarity Group, Dipa Sinha.

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