A State environment panel recently observed that a state housing agency – the Maharashtra Police Housing and Welfare Corp – allegedly violated rules in one of its projects in Thane. The agency constructed 260 police quarters and a school opposite the police commissioner’s office in Thane West without a prior environment clearance, the panel said.
As per records of the State Expert Appraisal Committee-2 (SEAC-2), which scrutinises projects within the Mumbai metropolitan region, the police housing and welfare corporation had constructed 28,625 sqm without obtaining a prior environment clearance. As per rules, any construction project having an area of more than 20,000 sqm requires a prior environment clearance.
The SEAC-2 screens all projects having an area of construction of more than 20,000 sqm in the Mumbai metropolitan region and then decides whether to recommend their clearance to a higher authority, the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA).
Ravi Bhushan Budhiraja, chairperson of SEAC-2, said, “Since the corporation has constructed without a valid environment clearance, it is not in our jurisdiction to appraise the project till the higher authority or the state environment department takes action. It is rare that a state agency is found violating rules. However, we don’t differentiate between private and public organisations while dealing with them.”
According to the guidelines of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), the SEAC-2 has referred the proposal for action on the alleged violation to the SEIAA and the state environment department. The committee said, “Further, the proposal will be appraised only after due examination and appropriate action is taken by the SEIAA /environment department in accordance with office the memorandum issued by the MoEF.”
According to the guidelines, work at the site will be suspended till the police housing corporation gets a valid clearance. A senior official from the state police housing and welfare corporation, who requested anonymity, said, “There are some projects of the corporation where all clearances have not been obtained yet. We are scrutinising such projects and will ensure that no work takes place till the clearances are obtained.”