Capitol Complex: Contentious multilevel parking on list of upcoming projects shared with Unesco

The Chandigarh administration has apprised the Unesco about new constructions, including the contentious multi-level basement parking, to come up at the Capitol Complex, a world heritage site.

In its annual “state of conservation” report submitted recently, the administration also listed plans for the construction of the Punjab and Haryana high court extension and a chiller plant to come up near the Punjab secretariat, confirmed a senior UT official.

The report was prepared by the UT department of culture in collaboration with the Chandigarh College of Architecture.

The yearly report is submitted by the administration to Unesco through the ministry of culture. As per operational guidelines for implementation of the World Heritage Convention, the administration has to describe any potential major restorations, alterations or new constructions intended within the property, buffer zones or corridors or other areas, where such developments may affect the outstanding universal value of the property, including authenticity and integrity.

The administration has submitted the report after a gap of two years, and this time around, unlike previous years, the report was submitted within the due date of November 13.

About the multilevel parking

The proposed multilevel underground parking site falls in the buffer zone of Capitol Complex and many experts have warned that the new construction may put its heritage status in jeopardy.

“Unesco can raise a red flag over these new constructions if it considers these to be detrimental to the preservation and conservation of the world heritage site. In that case, it would communicate the same to the culture ministry, which will have to intervene in the matter. Unesco can also put the status of heritage site under the category of ‘endangered’ if it considers the new changes as potentially harmful to the site,” said another UT official, requesting anonymity.

The proposed site also falls within the Sukhna eco-sensitive zone (SESZ) around the Sukhna Wildlife Sanctuary that was notified in 2017. The UT environment department had recently communicated to the UT engineering department that construction is allowed there as per the SESZ norms as it is in “regulated zone”.

The proposed site also “slightly” falls within the Sukhna catchment area, where all construction activity is prohibited. Notably, the court has ordered no construction in the catchment area.

On December 20, 2019, the HC had even directed the UT administration to submit the layout plan for the proposed multi-level underground parking lot opposite the high court museum within four weeks.

The HC direction had come after the administration official submitted that the site falls within the SESZ and buffer zone of Capitol Complex. However, the bench was of the view that if parking can’t be constructed, how can a Tourist Information Centre came up on the same site. It further observed that amendments can be made in the Master Plan and also questioned as to how a green belt could come under heritage status.

As per the layout plan submitted with the HC in January this year, a multi-level basement parking with three underground floors has been proposed. In the first phase the parking lot will have space for over 2,800 cars. In the second phase, installation of stacks has been proposed to accommodate 5,000 cars. The ground level of the parking lot will be green area. Ramps for exit and entry of vehicles to the basement parking spaces will be the only construction on it.

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