The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate change (MoEF&CC), on 9th December, 2016 amended the Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2006 issued under sub-section 1 read with section 3(2)(v) of Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 and Rule 5(3)(d) of the Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986. This has been done with a view to streamline the permissions for buildings and construction sector so that affordable housing can be provided to weaker sections in urban area under the scheme 'Housing for All by 2022'. The amendment has brought about the following changes:
a. As per the newly added paragraph 14 in the amended Notification, the environmental clearance (EC) will be issued to all building constructions covering a built-up area between 20,000 to 1,50,000 sq. mtr. in an integrated manner, along with the building permission under building bye-laws.
b. No Consent will be required from the State Pollution Control Boards to Establish and Operate under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 for residential buildings with built-up area up to 1,50,000 square meters.
c. The environmental clearance for building and construction projects with built-up areas from 1,50,000 to 3,00,000 sq. mtr. will be issued by the State Level Environment Impact Assessment Authority.
d. The Townships and Area development projects with built-up areas above 3,00,000 sq. mtr. or covering an area of more than 150 hectares will be approved and cleared by the Union Government.
e. Projects with built-up area between 5000 sq. mtr. to 20,000 sq. mtr. will have to file a 'Self declaration Form' to comply with the environmental conditions (Appendix XIV) along with Form 1A and certification by the Qualified Building Environment Auditor. This online submission must be made by the project proponent along with the application for building permission. The buildings with built-up area between 5000 sq. mtr. to 20,000 sq. mtr. will have to follow environmental norms for construction and maintenance phase as enlisted in Appendix XIV of the Notification.
f. The Qualified Building Environment Auditors who are in charge of assessing and certifying the building projects would be accredited by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC).
g. Appendix XVI provides for constitution of an Environmental Cell at the local authority level. The responsibility of this cell would be monitoring the implementation of the amended Notification and providing an oversight to the Third-Party Auditing process.
h. The project proponent of those buildings with built-up area of more than 20,000 sq. mtr. must submit Performance Data and Certificate of Continued Compliance of the project for the environmental conditions parameters applicable after completion of construction from Qualified Building Environment Auditors every five years to the Environment Cell with special focus on:
i. Energy Use (including all energy sources)
ii. Energy generated on site from onsite renewable energy sources
iii. Water use and water generated, treated and reused on site
iv. Waste segregated and treated on site
v. Tree plantation and maintenance
i. After completion of the project, the Environmental Cell shall randomly check the projects compliance status including the five years' audit report. The notification provides for the State Governments to enact suitable laws to impose penalties for non-compliances of environmental conditions and parameters.
j. The cases of false declaration or certification shall be reported to the accreditation body and to the local body for blacklisting of Qualified Building Environment Auditors and financial penalty on the owners/project proponents and Qualified Building Environment Auditors.
The Amended Notification has been brought under scrutiny before the National Green Tribunal (NGT) by the Society for Protection of Environment and Biodiversity. The petition prays that the above Notification be quashed as it is in contravention to the provisions of EIA notification, 2006 and The Environment Protection Act, 1986. Currently, the NGT bench headed by NGT Chief Justice Swatanter Kumar has stringently asked the Ministries to refrain from acting under the new notification otherwise the notification would be stayed. The NGT has warned the MoEF&CC saying, "You can't do legal blunders and get away with it"1.
At a time when expedited construction work and development in housing sector is the need of the hour, the Amended Notification, 2016 is an effort in avoiding delay of development projects. At the same time, environmental safeguards cannot be overlooked.
1 As reported in "The Financial Express" published on January 5, 2017 at: http://www.financialexpress.com/india-news/ngt-expresses-displeasure-with-moef-for-exempting-real-estate-from-environmental-clearances-says-why-do-you-do-these-funny-things/497783/
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