New Delhi: The Delhi State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) has granted environmental clearance to the proposal for the construction of the ‘Executive Enclave’ which will house the new Prime Minister’s Office and Cabinet Secretariat.
The Delhi State Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC) had last week recommended the SEIAA give a green nod to the project.
The SEIAA discussed the project at a meeting on Wednesday and approved it.
The Forest Department had on August 23 granted permission to the Central Public Works Department, the user agency, to transplant 487 of the 807 trees at the site under the Delhi Preservation of Trees Act, 1994.
During the meeting, the SEIAA noted that the project will lead to the removal of 60 percent of the trees at the site.
”SEAC/SEIAA tried to get the PP (project proponent) to reduce the felling of trees but only a few could be saved. ”The project design was presented as fait accompli (something that’s already done). No attempt was made to make any major change in the footprint of the building that would have led to tree preservation on the site,” it said.
CPWD officials said the proposal was submitted for environmental clearance in December last year.
The SEAC, which vets the proposals before they are sent to SEIAA for clearance, had earlier this month set up a sub-committee to examine the implementation of the Delhi government’s policy for tree transplantation and review the site plan “in order to retain trees.” Under the policy notified by the government in December 2020, agencies concerned are required to transplant a minimum of 80 percent of the trees affected by their development works. The benchmark tree survival rate at the end of one year of tree transplantation is 80 percent.
The sub-committee in its report said the tree survey was not carried out at the time of project feasibility assessment and site identification. The SEAC, which first examined the proposal in a meeting on January 31, had raised concern over the CPWD’s plan to remove an ”excessively high proportion” of trees from the site. The CPWD later revised the proposal, decreasing the number of trees to be transplanted from 630 to 487 and increasing the number of trees to be retained at the site from 154 to 320. In a meeting held on April 9, the SEAC decided to recommend the revised proposal to the SEIAA for a grant of environmental clearance.
The SEIAA, however, referred the matter back to the SEAC to ensure that provisions of the tree transplantation policy are complied with.
According to the revised proposal for the Rs 1,381-crore project, the CPWD will maintain 1,022 trees at the site, to have a tree every 80 square metre of plot area as per the guidelines of the Union environment ministry. A total of five buildings with a built-up area of 90,000 square metres will be constructed at the site after demolishing the built-up area of 47,000 sqm.
The redevelopment of the Central Vista, the nation’s power corridor, envisages a new parliament building, common central secretariat, revamping of the 3-km Rajpath from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate, a new office and residence of the prime minister, and a new vice president enclave.