Against NGT objections, Govt plans to ease green norms for realty

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NEW DELHI: Last week the Union Environment Ministry had approved changes in the Environment Impact Assessment Notification against the objections by National Green Tribunal (NGT). According to the proposed amendments, new buildings or expansion projects, less than 50,000 sqm would not require prior Environment Clearance (EC) and can be constructed “under the supervision of the state government” through urban local bodies or development authorities.

An official said that approved amendments have been sent to the Law Ministry for vetting.

Presently all buildings and construction covering 20,000 sqm 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 by which 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 sqm. At present, projects above 1.5 lakh sqm are approved by the Central Environment Ministry while those between 20,000 and 1.5 lakh sqm need the approval of the state environment authority.

Relaxations would not cover coastal zones, forest areas and protected areas which would continue to be regulated under the respective Acts, said the official. 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.

Last December NGT had quashed Ministry’s notification which exempted projects between 20,000 and 1.5 lakh sqm from prior EC provided they were supervised by environmental cells. The NGT’s objected 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 affordable housing available to weaker sections in urban areas.

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