'Halt construction of Central Vista project, use resources for COVID-19 response'


New Delhi: Several civil society groups and environmental organisations across India on Wednesday appealed to the Centre to halt its ambitious Central Vista Redevelopment Project in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

The statement issued by 65 organisations urged the central government to halt the Rs 13,450 crore project and divert all available resources towards handling the pandemic.

"All the unnecessary expenditures, including the construction of lavish Central Vista, must be halted and all available resources must be diverted to urgent COVID response," said a statement issued by Vikalp Sangam, one of the organisations.

It works towards socially just and ecologically sustainable, alternative pathways to well-being and suggests short, medium and long term measures for mitigating the impacts of the pandemic on the lives and livelihoods of millions of people.

The statement said that the spread of coronavirus has shown that environment and human health are related.

"The abysmal state of the public health system and the callous ignoring of credible expertise and clear warnings, by the central and most state governments, have brought us here. Doctors, nurses, paramedics, and all other frontline workers are overstretched and have lost their colleagues in the line of duty.

"The pandemic's second wave in India is a systematic political failure for which the government needs to be held accountable. The spread of the virus has shown the strong relationship between our environment and human health," the statement said.

Ritu Priya, professor at Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and a member of the Vikalp Sangam Core group said, "The focus now must shift on human and environmental health and well-being."

The statement said given the impacts of climate change and other ecological damage and impending pandemics that are predicted to become more frequent in the coming decades, "it is important to question a development ideology based only on growth in GDP, which is meaningless as shown by the pandemic".

"Such growth has only increased inequalities, economic insecurity amongst tens of millions, and ecological devastation," it said.

The full focus of economic activities in the name of 'development' from now on must be on human and environmental health and well-being. Indicators that reflect these, beyond GDP, must guide economic planning, it added.

"While the central and state governments have necessary resources to carry these out, and must be held accountable for them, civil society groups and bodies of local self-governance in villages and cities must also put full efforts into making these possible.

"Indeed, the more communities are able to be relatively independent and self-reliant in avoiding or dealing with such crises, the stronger India will be," it said.

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