The environment ministrys 2012 guidelines for high-rise buildings that link a buildings height with the width of the road on which it is located and had been strongly opposed by state governments has failed to get the backing of a review committee set up by the ministry.
The committee headed by Planning Commission member Dr K Kasturirangan has recommended that issues relating to urban planning,fire fighting and disaster management should be left to state governments and local bodies instead.
The report has also recommended a breather for highway widening projects up to 100 km,exempting them from prior environmental clearance.
The report,accessed by The Indian Express,has said that while the guidelines have helped in sensitising state governments and local authorities on important aspects,there cannot be uniform norms for the entire country as suggested.
Noting that issues relating to emergency and evacuation requirements of high-rise buildings are extremely important in view of urban planning and disaster management,the Kasturirangan committee has recommended that these need to be appropriately addressed by the concerned state governments/local authorities.
It has advised that state governments should formulate appropriate rules/regulations/guidelines on the subject and provide for required infrastructure/facility to address the issue in consultation with the local bodies/municipalities.
It has also advised that state environment impact assessment authorities stick to timelines stipulated in the EIA notification 2006 to ensure environmental clearances do not delay projects.
Governments of three Congress-ruled states Maharashtra,Haryana and Uttarakhand and Left-ruled Kerala had written to Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan seeking a review of her tough norms that had stalled key infrastructure projects and slowed down job creation while ignoring the critical issue of land availability.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan had protested,pleading that in space-starved Mumbai,such an order would imply a ban on new buildings. Real estate developers had also pitched in saying state governments and local authorities were better equipped and informed to frame such regulations.
Following the recommendation of its expert appraisal committee on building/construction,infrastructure and CRZ projects,the MoEF had issued Guidelines for High Rise Buildings on February 7,2012 to ensure disaster-preparedness as housing increasingly grows vertical. These guidelines fixed the minimum width of roads for highrises 15-30 m tall at 15 m,for 45-60 m buildings at 24 m and for buildings higher than 60 m at 30 m,besides prescribing the proximity to a fire station.
The Kasturirangan committee report also recommends easing environmental norms for all highway widening projects,suggesting exemption from prior environmental clearance for expansion of national highway projects up to 100 km involving additional right of way/land acquisition up to 40m-60m. The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) had sought exemption for highway widening projects up to 200 km.
The MoEF had set up a committee under Kasturirangan in December 2012 to review the guidelines and provisions of the EIA notification 2006 for grant of environmental clearance for various building,road and SEZ projects.
The ministry is yet to take a final view of the report but has said it has an open mind on the issue. The ministry feels international best practices should be followed and disaster preparedness be given high priority.