PRO­TECT­ING EN­VI­RON­MENT

realtors cir­cum­vent en­vi­ron­ment rules

Hindustan Times (Chandigarh) - Estates - - FRONT PAGE - Van­dana Ram­nani van­dana.ram­nani@hin­dus­tan­times.com

There are two types of projects that re­quire en­vi­ron­ment clear­ance – cat­e­gory A and cat­e­gory B that are di­vided on the ba­sis of the po­ten­tial im­pact of con­struc­tion on the en­vi­ron­ment. Most hous­ing projects fall un­der cat­e­gory B. Build­ing and con­struc­tion projects that ex­ceed 20,000 sq mt built-up area and are less than 1,50,000 sq mt of built-up area need clear­ance from the State En­vi­ron­ment Im­pact As­sess­ment Au­thor­ity (SEIAA) along with all other per­mis­sions from the lo­cal au­thor­i­ties and ser­vice providers.

Built-up area here is de­fined as the built-up or cov­ered area on all floors put to­gether, in­clud- ing base­ments and other ser­vice ar­eas planned in the build­ing or con­struc­tion projects. Town­ships and area de­vel­op­ment projects cov­er­ing an area of more than 50 hectares and or built-up area of more than 1,50,000 sq mt also re­quire an en­vi­ron­ment clear­ance.

De­vel­op­ers have found a way to avoid the need to get an en­vi­ron­ment clear­ance al­to­gether. “There have been cases where de­vel­op­ers have found a way to cir­cum­vent the more than 20,000 sq m en­vi­ron­ment clear­ance rule. By con­struct­ing two ar­eas of 19,999 sq m in two build­ings in one pro­ject they make sure they are out of the en­vi­ron­ment clear­ance net as they are not con­struct­ing on an area of 20,000 sq m,” says Ritwick Dutta, en­vi­ron­ment lawyer.

There have been cases where a builder may have built an aes­thet­i­cally-pleas­ing sky­walk con­nect­ing the two build­ings of 19,999 sq m in an at­tempt to cir­cum­vent en­vi­ron­ment ap­provals, he adds.

De­vel­op­ers are gen­er­ally re­quired to fill form 1 and form 1A. The ap­pli­ca­tion for en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact as­sess­ment es­sen­tially has to have de­tails of the pro­ject like the man­ner of pro­cure­ment of ma­te­ri­als, us­age of wa­ter and en­ergy dur­ing con­struc­tion, de­bris re­moval plan, im­pact on wa­ter and air, solid waste and its mit­i­ga­tion steps, health and well-be­ing of con­struc­tion work­ers etc.

As part of form 1 (A) builders are re­quired to sub­mit in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing the type of veg­e­ta­tion in the area, con­duct scien- tific stud­ies, pro­vide in­for­ma­tion about how much wa­ter they will be us­ing, how many trees will be chopped, amount of ground wa­ter that will be wasted. It is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the builder to en­sure that ground wa­ter is ju­di­ciously used and that the pro­ject does not de­stroy the green belt, ex­plains Pushp Jain, di­rec­tor, EIA Re­source and Re­sponse Cen­tre (ERC).

Once the ap­pli­ca­tion is sub­mit­ted, the State Ex­pert Appraisal Com­mit­tee (SEAC) does its due dili­gence, lists short­falls if any and pro­cures ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion and fi­nally makes ap­pro­pri­ate rec­om­men­da­tions to the SEIAA. SEIAA goes through the data pre­sented and SEAC rec­om­men­da­tions be­fore is­su­ing an En­vi­ron­ment Clear­ance (EC).

En­vi­ron­ment as­sess­ment is not con­cerned about the own­er­ship of the prop­erty but the ac­tiv­ity or the con­se­quence to which the land is put to, ex­plains Dutta. As far as ap­provals go, the rate as of date is al­most 100% ap­provals given by au­thor­i­ties for en­vi­ron­ment clear­ance. Ma­jor­ity of them are cleared by the state govern­ment un­less all the re­quired pa­pers such as maps or sea­sonal stud­ies have not been sub­mit­ted, in­for­ma­tion on where the de­vel­oper will be sourc­ing the bricks etc.

“There are few re­jec­tions and ab­so­lutely no pun­ish­ment. As of now there is only a ` 1 lakh fine but no ma­jor de­ter­rents and hence there is not much se­ri­ous­ness on the part of the de­vel­op­ers. Since they cre­ate third party rights by in­volv­ing home­buy­ers, the leg­is­la­ture is then forced to take a sym­pa­thetic view about the vi­o­la­tions,” he says.

For Ge­tam­ber Anand, pres­i­dent, con­fed­er­a­tion of real es­tate de­vel­op­ers’ as­so­ci­a­tion of In­dia, how­ever, the big­gest chal­lenge is the time taken to con­sti­tute a state com­mit­tee to clear the en­vi­ron­ment ap­pli­ca­tions. “Con­sti­tut­ing state com­mit­tee it­self takes months. An­other chal­lenge is to do with the fact that the com­mit­tee sits just about once in a month and one case is heard at least three to four times. In a place where there are hun­dreds of on­go­ing projects, per­mis­sions are granted af­ter at least eight to 10 months. Ideally, ap­pli­ca­tions should be cleared in a time-bound man­ner and if that is not done, the com­mit­tee should be made an­swer­able,” he says.

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