AGAINST objections by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), the Union Environment Ministry last week approved changes in the Environment Impact Assessment Notification to exempt realty projects below 50,000 square metres of built-up area from seeking prior environment clearance (EC).
As per the proposed amendments, approved last week, new buildings or expansion projects less than 50,000 sq m would not require prior EC and can be constructed “under the supervision of the state government” through urban local bodies or development authorities.
At present, all building and construction covering 20,000 sq m and above are subject to environmental clearance given by the state-level Environmental Impact Assessment Authority. However, all approvals will have to meet environment protection conditions whereby self-declarations and certifications by project promoters would be monitored by the state environment authority and not an environment cell as proposed earlier.
The Ministry has also proposed to do away with the Centre’s approval for project size above 1.5 lakh sq m. “Anything above 50,000 sq m will require environment clearance under the state Acts,” said an official. At present, projects above 1.5 lakh sq m are approved by the Central Environment Ministry while those between 20,000 and 1.5 lakh sq m need the state environment authority’s approval.
None of the relaxations would cover coastal zones, forest area and protected area which would continue to be regulated under the respective Acts, said the official. The approved amendments have been sent to the Law Ministry for vetting, he said.
Under the proposal, “environmental conditions” would be integrated in building bye-laws by all states and union territories stipulating water-efficient appliances, rainwater harvesting, waste management system, energy efficient systems, renewable power, sufficient green cover for better air quality.
NGT last December had quashed Ministry’s notification which exempted projects between 20,000 and 1.5 lakh sq m from prior EC provided they were supervised by environmental cells. The NGT’s objection was that giving assessment and monitoring powers to the proposed cells could lead to a conflict of interest with their employer — state or local authority — who would be averse to any objections from these cells.
The relaxation is being proposed under the NDA government’s Housing for All by 2022 as well as for ensuring Ease of Doing Responsible Business with an objective of making available affordable housing to weaker sections in urban areas.