A proposed move by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to make eco-compliance mandatory for all new buildings with a built-up area of more than 5,000 square metres might be shelved after it was shot down by the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD).
Under the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification of 2006, only building constructions over 20,000 square metres require prior environmental clearance. All such proposed building projects have to be assessed by state-level environmental agencies, or the MoEF, in case of projects bigger than 1.5 lakh square metres, for impact on the land, water and air quality and socio-economic factors as well as the steps taken to mitigate the same.
Now, status quo will be maintained in project size after the MoUD argued that including more projects would work at cross-purposes with its plan to streamline permissions for real estate projects.
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In fact, it has been a persistent demand of the real estate industry and the MoUD that all projects up to 50,000 square metres built-up be entirely exempt from eco-compliance so as to save on the cost and time taken for such a process.
In its recently prepared ‘Draft Environment Guidelines for Buildings’, the MoEF made a case for increasing the threshold to include all projects over 5000 square metres as “majority of the buildings which will come up will be having built-up area of less than 20,000 sq m”.
The ministry proposed that local by-laws and the revised National Building Code should incorporate important parameters so that even smaller-sized buildings adopt measures for energy efficiency.
Coming in the run-up to the 21th session of the Conference of the Parties or the COP 21 climate meet in Paris, the move assumes significance in light of the fact that ensuring a sustainable habitat is one of the primary stated missions under India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change.
The mission stresses on ‘extending existing energy conservation building code’. Building construction generates 40 per cent of the waste in the country and accounts for 20 per cent of the total energy consumed and 30 per cent of the portable water.
“The idea was to bring in more projects into the fold of environment compliance. Due to opposition from the urban development ministry, this won’t happen anymore,” said an MoEF official.
He added that the MoEF had planned to meet the real estate industry’s demands half-way by delegating the power to give environmental clearance for all projects up to 50,000 sq m at the local level. “But that was conditional on the building bylaws including certain green norms for projects over 5000 sq m. Now, we may have to rethink our plan to allow such delegation of green clearance,” said the official.