Delhi's Iconic Buildings at Pragati Maidan Demolished Without Permission, NGT Affidavit Reveals

The consent to establish (CoE) for the Integrated Exhibition-cum-Convention Centre (IECC) at Pragati Maidan was applied for in October 2017, nearly six months after the Hall of Nations and the Hall of Industries were demolished to make way for the project on April 24, 2017.

Aniruddha Ghosal ,
New Delhi: The Hall of Nations and the Hall of Industries, two of New Delhi’s iconic landmarks at Pragati Maidan, were reduced to rubble on April 24 last year to make way for a new project. But the permission required to start construction work for the Integrated Exhibition-cum-Convention Centre (IECC) was applied for only in October, nearly six months after the buildings were demolished.

A signed affidavit submitted to the National Green Tribunal by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) — the Capital's pollution watchdog — said, "That it is most respectfully submitted that Delhi Pollution Control Committee had received the application for Consent to Establish under the Water Act 1974 and Air Act 1981 from the project proponent on 9.10.2017, which is under consideration."

The issue of the CoE was brought up on Monday, during the final arguments on the plea filed environmental activist Verhaen Khanna, seeking the quashing of the environmental clearance (EC) given to the project by his counsel. The counsels for the project proponents are likely to present their final arguments on Tuesday.

Simply put, the CoE is the permission that industries or activities must obtain to establish itself, before the actual commencement of the work to ensure water or air isn't polluted, explained DPCC officials.

The plea filed by Khanna challenged the EC granted India Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO) — a trade promotion agency under the ambit of the Union Ministry of Commerce, alleging that it was obtained by “concealing material information”. The EC was granted by the MoEF, with the Ministry telling ITPO to plant a minimum of one tree for every 80 sq mts of land.

Three days before the demolition, on April 21, a meeting took place under the chairmanship of union Urban Development ministry secretary to discuss pending approvals for the project. On the issue of the EC, the minutes of the meeting state, "Environmental Clearance (EC) from MoEF&CC: ITPO and NBCC were asked to complete EIA in 3 weeks. Thereafter, MoEF&CC would resolve issue EC as per rule/extanct instructions by 15.06.2017 positively."

While giving the EC, the ITPO had also been asked by the MoEF obtain necessary clearances from relevant agencies, before beginning work and told ITPO to redevelop Pragati Maidan as per the local building bylaws and barricade the construction site before  the work begins.

More recently, in July this year, following a widespread outrage over the felling of trees for the redevelopment of seven south Delhi colonies, the NGT had directed the Delhi government’s Environment and Forest Department to provide details of trees enumerated for the Pragati Maidan redevelopment project.

ITPO had given the Rs 2,254-crore contract to build the project to the National Building Construction Corporation (NBCC) in 2016. The plan for the complex includes a hotel, a mall, a multi-level food court, water-bodies display and a helipad.

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