Violating green norms? Get ready for prison
Jail term proposed in new rules for realty players who start construction work without environment clearance
The ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) is planning to notify a fresh procedure that will make it mandatory for real estate developers to pay a stiff penalty and even face imprisonment if they start construction of housing projects without prior environment clearances.
“Most cases pertain to getting environment clearances after starting construction activity. It is important for the government to see how such violations are brought into the legal framework. We want to create a legal framework within which one can deal with such cases where environment clearances were not taken before starting construction but this by no means implies that the government wants to encourage such a practice. But we do require a system to deal with such contingencies,” says Ashok Lavasa, secretary, ministry of environment, forests and climate change.
The ministry is contemplating categorising offences and linking the penalty to the gravity of the offence. It is working towards ensuring that the ‘polluters-pay principle’ is implemented. It proposes to retain the provision of imprisonment in case of serious offences.
“Heavy monetary penalty is being contemplated for developers who proceed with construction prior to getting an environment clearance. Having said that, one also has to make a distinction between the type of violations that are grave and technical, serious violations and those with not so serious consequences,” Lavasa adds.
Going forward, the ministry is also holding talks with the ministry of urban development to give authorities that grant permission for construction under building byelaws to include environment clearances as part of the byelaws. This will help simplify procedures.
Last month, while hearing a batch of appeals filed by several builders from Tamil Nadu who were ordered by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to deposit heavy fines for not getting environment clearances before starting construction work on their projects, the Supreme Court had warned realty companies against launching projects first and then going in for post-facto approvals.