The Centre’s proposal to construct a new Parliament building next to the existing heritage structure was approved by the Environment Ministry’s expert appraisal committee (EAC) last week.

The EAC, however, said the approval was subject to the outcome of a legal challenge to the change of land-use of the plot, according to the minutes of the meeting.

New parliament house opposite old one

The Central Public Works Department’s (CPWD) proposal for “expansion and renovation of the existing Parliament building at Parliament Street” was among the projects considered by the EAC at its meetings on April 22-24.

The proposal was earlier considered by the EAC at its meetings on February 25-26, where it asked the CPWD for additional information.

While reconsidering the project during last week’s meeting, the EAC noted that the project cost, as submitted by the CPWD, had gone up from ₹776 crore to ₹922 crore due to “changes in project specifications”.

According to the approved proposal, the new Parliament will have a maximum height of 42 metre spread over 65,000 square metre of built-up area on a 10.5 acre or 42,031 square metre plot. Buildings constructed in the 1970s and 1980s on the site, including the existing Parliament reception and an AC plant,which total 5,200 square metre in built-up space, will be demolished. Of the 333 trees on the plot, 223 will be transplanted and 100 retained. In addition, 290 new trees were proposed to be planted.

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“Once the Parliament expansion is carried out as proposed, the proposed project aims to undertake necessary structural and other activities required to sustain the existing Parliament building for use by future generations of Indians,” the CPWD told the EAC.

No stay order: CPWD

While the March notification of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs of (MoHUA) changing the land-use of the plot from “recreational (district park)” to “Parliament” in the Master Plan of Delhi has been challenged in the Supreme Court, the CPWD clarified that there was no stay order.

The CPWD submitted that there would be “no significant impacts on public space” and with the entire area being in “high security zone”, the plot could have never been used for recreational purposes.

Responding to a representation to the EAC about the timing of the project as the country is reeling under the COVID-19 pandemic, the CPWD submitted: “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.”

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The CPWD stated that the project was the “expansion of an existing building on the neighbouring plot” so the environmental impacts would be “if at all, minor and incremental”.

The project would not lead to any increase in air and noise pollutions and the water consumption would decrease due to reuse of treated water, the EAC minutes stated.

The CPWD’s project is a part of a larger redevelopment of the 3-km Central Vista from Rashtrapati Bhavan till India Gate proposed by it and the MoHUA in October 2019. The construction of a new Parliament is supposed to be completed before Independence Day 2022, as stated by the CPWD and Housing and Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Puri.

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‘Assessment inadequate’

Kanchi Kohli, an independent environment law researcher, said the assessment done was inadequate. “The CPWD’s EIA consultant has called the impacts of the modernisation and expansion of Parliament, which includes an entirely new building ‘minor and incremental’. This is without carrying out a full environment assessment of the stand-alone Parliament project, leave alone the full Central Vista redevelopment, of which it is a part.”

(With inputs from Jacob Koshy)

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