Within just two months of the Union Environment Ministry issuing guidelines to take stricter action against those violating green norms,the state environment panel has stalled nearly 50 projects across the state for starting construction without first securing environmental clearance.
Of these,28 are in the Mumbai metropolitan region alone. Barring a handful of irrigation and industrial projects,most of the projects netted for violations,especially those in the Mumbai metropolitan region,are real estate projects.
The projects in Mumbai singled out for flouting norms are mostly residential or a combination of residential and commercial properties by local developers such as Vijay Grihanirman,Life Housing Development and the Neelkanth Group. These are spread across areas such as Borivali,Bhandup,Santacruz,Powai,Vikhroli,Ghatkopar,Thane and Dahisar,among others.
The state-level expert appraisal committee has delisted all proposals where violations have come to light from the queue of appraisals for environmental clearance,acting upon the latest office memorandum of the Union Environment Ministry in this regard. The memorandum,dated December 12,2012,says projects cannot be appraised if the proponent has violated norms by starting construction before getting a valid environmental clearance.
“The number of cases of violations and subsequent delisting of proposals has suddenly risen because of this office memorandum. The central government is keen that proper action has to be taken for violations,so we have been told not to appraise the proposals at all and directly send them to the authority for further action. Also,now in the event of any violation,the project proponent will be facing prosecution and not just a penalty,” said Ravi Bhushan Budhiraja,chairman of the state-level expert appraisal committee for the Mumbai metropolitan region.
Before this memorandum,the state expert appraisal committee was permitted to appraise the projects and recommend them for clearance even if there was a violation. The committee just had to include a note saying norms have been flouted and the higher authority should look into it. To get a formal environmental clearance after that,the company proposing the project only had to put the matter in front of its board and get a written assurance that this will not be repeated.
Now,the project proponent will have to re-apply for an environmental clearance once the entire issue is resolved and wait once again in queue for his turn for appraisal. The entire process may take about six months roughly, he added. As per the memorandum,the state government will need to initiate legal action against the project proponent under the Environment Protection Act. The project proponent will also require to submit a written commitment from its board of directors assuring that such acts will not be repeated.