Clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests mandatory for all townships and area development projects that cover an area of more than 50 hectares or 124 acres
The Greater Mohali Area Development Authority (GMADA) was in such a tearing hurry to launch the 1,000-acre Aerocity township project that it forgot to take environment clearance for it.
According to a notification issued by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF),all townships and area development projects that cover an area of more than 50 hectares or 124 acres should take clearance from it.
A source in the regional office of the ministry told Newsline that so far they have not received any communication from GMADA in this regard. An officer said possession of plots could not be granted in case clearance was not given.
The project proponent should ideally advertise in the newspaper that scheme has been accorded environmental clearance and give details of the MoEF website where it is displayed. But the Punjab government went ahead and launched the project throwing norms to the wind. Though in adverts and on brochure GMADA has called Aerocity Mohalis El Dorado,there is no mention of environment clearance,which should have been obtained before demarcating plots.
Aerocity would be developed as an independent integrated township comprising 4,000 plots of 125 to 500 square yards,and sites reserved for commercial,institutional and multi-storey flats. Sources said GMADA would be in a fix if the monitoring authority raises certain objections,like asking for a provision of greenbelt where plots have been demarcated. Asserting that the government should lead by example for private developers,the official said,As per rules,members of the State Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC) inspect the site for screening or scoping or appraisal,with prior notice of at least seven days to the applicant,who should provide necessary facilities for inspection. Then,the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) takes a decision based on the recommendations of SEAC,and moves the case to MoEF. But the MoEF has not been approached so far in this case.
Incidentally,the SEIAA of Punjab is lying defunct for the last three months,after its members resigned. Member secretary of the Punjab Pollution Control Board Babu Ram,who is also member secretary of the SEIAA,said,Though the experts committee,which assists the authority is functional,projects cannot be cleared till SEIAA is reconstituted. We have apprised the Centre of the problem.
However,GMADA Chief Administrator VP Singh claimed that they have applied for environment clearance with the MoEF. But when told that the ministry has not received any communication from them,he said he does not remember things off-hand and his superintending engineer (SE) should be contacted for it.
When asked what if the monitoring authority raises objections,he said,We can later take remedial steps.