On 6 and 7 February, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) conducted a consultation for people to present “oral evidence in person” regarding their objections to the planned redevelopment of the Central Vista in New Delhi.However, the date and schedule for these public hearings was only posted by the DDA in its website and newspapers on 5 February, giving objectors only a day’s notice about the hearings. 1,292 people who had submitted objections were invited by the authority to take part in the process.In December 2019, the DDA had invited objections/suggestions from the public regarding the government’s plan for a new Parliament house, demolition of Rajpath buildings like Shastri Bhavan, Krishi Bhavan, Nirman Bhavan and Vigyan Bhavan, and residences for the prime minister and vice-president.Gujarat-based architectural firm HCP Design has been chosen by the Centre to plan the project, which has generated some amount of controversy.New Parliament building by 2024: Hardeep PuriConcerns Over Central Vista RedevelopmentConcerns over the Modi government’s plan include the conversion of public spaces to restricted government areas, the prospect of increased pollution from the construction, and the destruction of heritage buildings – all of this without any actual study supporting the need for the project.Let India Breathe, a citizens’ and architects’ collective, had set out the major problem areas with the proposed revamp as part of its efforts to encourage citizens to submit objections to the DDA. The key objections raised by them include:The redevelopment would lead to the reduction of as much as 80 acres of area which is currently available (directly and indirectly) for use by the general public (including transport and parking facilities).There are no compensatory provisions to replace the public spaces being converted.The government’s proposal includes no plans for the replacement of trees on the 80 acres of land being redeveloped.Lokpath, an alliance of 200 architects, environmentalists, urban designers and landscape architects supported by an equal number of citizens of India, also launched an appeal to ‘save Central Vista’, in which they pointed out the following issues in the proposal:The obliteration of some of the most iconic public spaces in Delhi without any transparent and democratic debate, and formulated within a short three-week span.No heritage audit has been carried out for the project, despite this being mandated in the Delhi Master Plan 2021.Heritage buildings falling into the Grade 1 and Grade 2 category will be demolished or modified under the project, going beyond what the relevant rules allow.No environmental analysis of the project has been carried out, which not only will lead to the cutting of around 1,000 trees, but will also see significant air pollution and water consumption as part of the construction efforts.The selection of the designer was done without an open competition, and the bidding process was only open to a few firms, the eligibility criteria for which was not made public.Questions About Consultation ProcessFollowing the DDA’s call for consultations regarding the project, close to 2,000 objections were sent in writing to the authority. Of these, 1,292 were invited to present oral evidence.The Lokpath collective was among the invitees. According to them, DDA officials refused to allow the media to attend the consultations, and did not allow members of the public who were present to record the process.Writing for The Wire, Manju Menon and Kanchi Kohli from the Centre for Policy Research had raised questions about these oral consultations, given how all of them needed to be heard between 10:30 am to 5:15 pm on 6 February, and 10:30 am to 1:30 pm on 7 February, at the DDA Office at Vikas Sadan in New Delhi.The DDA notice also said anyone else who filed an objection but whose name is not on the list can present their objections from 1-1:30 pm on 7 February.Menon and Kohli pointed out that this only allowed two-and-a-half minutes to each objector to present their comments, and argue that the DDA could have given more time and publicity for the consultations for “a project of such great importance and consequences.”They also noted that the consultations are being conducted on working days, rather than a weekend, which made it tougher for people to attend. Lokpath representatives tweeted that these fears were borne out, with very few people able to attend, even among those from Delhi, let alone the rest of the country.They also write about the most problematic aspect, that is, giving objectors only a day’s notice of the hearings.All of this raised serious concerns about the DDA’s approach to the project and the seriousness with which it intends to consider objections and comments by the public.Instead of adopting best practices from around the world, and giving a proper chance to those wishing to speak about what would be a fundamental change to the capital and the way people living in it and visiting it can access its public spaces, the authorities appeared to give short shrift to these concerns.Central Vista Revamp: Ahmedabad’s HCP Design Wins Consultancy Bid We'll get through this! Meanwhile, here's all you need to know about the Coronavirus outbreak to keep yourself safe, informed, and updated. 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