Around 400 projects across the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) are awaiting appraisal for environment clearances since July since the regulatory body has remained non-functional for two months. These projects not only pertain to real estate development, but also to information technology parks, commercial hubs, college expansion and hospital revamp plans. They are pending appraisal by the State Expert Appraisal Committee-2 (SEAC-2).
There are two committees in Maharashtra, the State Expert Appraisal Committee-1 (SEAC-1) and State Expert Appraisal Committee-2 (SEAC-2), which appraise projects for environment clearance. The SEAC-2 looks at projects from the MMR region while SEAC-1 assesses projects from all over the state, excluding the MMR. These committees then recommend the projects, either for approval or rejection, to the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA).
According to the environment department, 170 new proposals are awaiting appraisal, while 225 are to be reviewed again by SEAC-2 after compliance and violation-related issues are resolved.
Some of the projects awaiting appraisal include proposed general-cum-multi-superspeciality hospital at Vashi by Mahatma Gandhi Mission Trust, expansion of Tata Memorial Hospital’s ‘Hemato Lymphoid Block’ at Kharghar, Slum Rehabilitation Authority’s projects in Andheri, Malad, Chembur and Wadala. Even public sector projects such as a new office complex for ONGC at Bandra Kurla Complex, remodelling of a bus depot in Kurla and a slum rehabilitation programme under JNNURM for urban poor at Badlapur are pending before the SEAC-2, which last met on June 27.
The reason for the pendency stems from the fact that the tenure of the SEAC-2 committee members got over in July, after which no committee has been formed as yet. Former committee members confirmed no extension was given to the previous committee either.
Officials from the environment department, who did not wish to be named, said the new committee had not been formed as the proposal for reconstitution of the SEAC-2 committee was still pending with the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). The officials said that the proposal, sent by the state environment department, had sought extension of the tenure of the former SEAC-2 committee and it was sent to the Centre after approval from the Chief Minister in June.
Environment department principal secretary Medha Gadgil said, “The reconstitution proposal is under process.”
The members of SEAC-2 committee were former IAS officer Ravi Budhiraja, Bharat Bhushan, retired director at MoEF, Neelima Naik, professor at National Institute of Industrial Engineering, Vihar, D R Hadadare, retired chief engineer of Mhada, Bhalchandra Patil, retired deputy municipal commissioner, B N Patil, director of state environment department.
Lalit Kumar Jain, chairman of Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Associations of India (CREDAI), said, “Because the committee is not appraising projects, they get delayed, causing cost escalation. The entire process of having the SEAC and SEIAA committees is a farce. It only leads to harassment and delay and the cost gets passed on to the customer. Why can’t the government implement the regulations in the Development Plan?”
Jain estimated that projects worth up to Rs 1 lakh crore in Maharashtra are delayed for want of environment clearances.