Construction Without Environmental Clearance
On December 9, 2016, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) issued a notification exempting real estate projects from obtaining prior environmental clearance and process of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). The move was proposed for achieving a target of providing houses for everyone by the year 2022.
The notification on the Environment ministry’s website read, “Received suggestions for ensuring Ease of Doing Responsible Business, and streamlining the permissions for buildings and construction sector which is important for providing houses and for this purpose the scheme of Housing for all by 2022 with an objective of making available, affordable housing to weaker sections”
According to the new norms, real estate projects between 20,000 and 1,50,000 square metres would no longer need to seek green approvals from the State-level Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) before the construction works begin. This is quite a time-consuming process. While areas less than 20,000 square metres will have to obtain environmental clearance by self-declaration and notification.
However, the new buildings would be assessed and certified by a new group of consultants empanelled by the Union Government, called Qualified Building Environment Auditors. These could be public or private bodies. The final call, according to the new amendment, would rest with local authorities like “Development Authorities, Municipal Corporations, etc”.
As per Newslaundry reports, MoEF’s Joint Secretary Manoj Kumar Singh said, “The beauty of this new system is that the permission of giving building construction and EC will be appraised in a transparent way by a local committee.” The appraisal committee will be the local authority.
The Notification has been challenged in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on December 21, by the Society for Protection of Environment and Biodiversity, an NGO which works in the area of environmental justice. They are seeking to quash the notification because it is in contravention to the provisions of EIA Notification, 2006 and Environment Protection Act, 1986.
Points to ponder
- How and when will this appraisal be done? How long will it take?
- The construction and development projects for housing for the poor do not require environmental clearance as per existing rules. Was it necessary to change the news for non-existent clause?
- How many of the existing housing projects for the poor are over 20000 sq.m in area?
- Will this move really be transparent and immune from corruption especially when even private organisations can become appraisers?