Friday, March 6, 2009

Correa slams DDA for Siri Fort mess (Indian Express- 07 March 09)

Tannu Sharma

New Delhi Appointed by the Supreme Court to look into the DDA’s project to make stadiums in the Siri Fort complex, renowned architect and town planner Charles Correa on Friday urged the court to impose a stiff penalty on the land agency. Correa also sought action against DDA for felling trees to raise the Commonwealth Games structures.
Correa strongly recommended “modification in the design of the present location”, besides ensuring that such project decisions do not recur in future.

Correa also accused the DDA for dragging its feet over the issue for the last two years. Blaming the DDA, he said, “By procrastinating the process of re-considering the location — which was first raised two years ago, (when) there was ample time available — the matter has been brought to this crisis.”

Correa’s report, submitted to the apex court on Thursday, had questioned the very rationale behind selecting the green belt area of the auditorium for construction of the basketball and squash courts, and the underground parking lots. “The site selection was not proper; the design of the building far from satisfactory,” the report said.

According to Correa, the present site of stadiums, far from any Metro station, involved the “wilful and heartless cutting of humongous number of trees.”

The Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan fixed March 27 to hear the content of the report after advocate M L Lahoti today mentioned the matter before it.

Following complaints by Siri Fort residents and activists, the apex court had appointed Correa to review the project in “totality” — it was alleged that the DDA had ignored all norms and laws required for environmental clearance of the project.

In his report, Correa also asked why the DDA destroyed 27.70 acres of greens in the forest area when it required only 5.75 acres to build the stadiums. The former chief of the Delhi Urban Art Council (DUAC) also questioned the need for construction of an underground parking, even after the police had said it was ill-advised for security reasons and traffic congestion.

Correa said the Rs 5-crore penalty on DDA and its guilty officials, as suggested by the court-appointed central empowered committee, was “far too little”. He said: “A much larger penalty needs to be imposed on DDA and responsibility fixed on individuals who participated in the decisions that brought this calamity about. This is crucial, if we want to ensure that such a crisis does not arise in future.”

The central empowered committee was of the view that it may not be possible to shift the basketball and squash courts due to time constraints; instead, it had suggested that the penalty be imposed on DDA as an option to redevelop greenery in the Siri Fort area.

The penalty money, the committee had recommended, should be kept in a fixed deposit with a state-owned bank and the accrued interest could be utilised for this purpose.

The apex court had earlier expressed the view that its main aim was to explore the possibility of having the project at the same site without causing any further damage to the forest area. “Our concern is that without further damage (to forest area) something could be done to salvage the project. It should be done under expert guidance,” the bench of Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices Arijit Pasayat and S H Kapadia had said.

Supreme Court appointed expert Charles Correa says

* Site selection for stadiums/parking lot not proper
* Design of building far from satisfactory
* Recommends modification in design of present location
DDA’s procrastination for 2 years brought about present “crisis”
* Why did DDA destroy 27.70 acres of greens when it required only 5.75 acres to build stadiums?


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