Refusing to stay a December 9, 2016, notification issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), exempting real estate projects from obtaining prior environmental clearance, a bench headed by NGT chief justice Swatanter Kumar issued notices to the MoEF and Urban Development ministry, seeking their reply before January 4, 2017. “This is an application praying for interim stay of the notification dated December 9, 2016. As we have fixed the matter for hearing on January 4, 2017, we do not wish to stay the notification. However, all the acts done in the meanwhile, will be subject to final orders that would be passed in the matter,” the bench said.
The tribunal was hearing a plea filed by the Society for Protection of Environment and Biodiversity, seeking quashing of the December 9 notification, on the ground that it was in contravention to the provisions of the EIA notification, 2006 and Environment Protection Act, 1986.
See also: Builders to pay for air pollution: NGT
The plea has alleged that the notification tries to ‘circumvent’ the provisions of the EIA Notification, 2006 in the name of ‘ease of doing business’ to the extent of building and construction of areas, which are more than 20,000 sq metres and less than 150,000 sq metres, where environment clearance (EC) was previously required.
The MoEF’s notification exempted building and construction projects of all sizes from the process of environment impact assessment (EIA) and prior environmental clearance, before beginning construction.
For smaller projects (less than 20,000 sq metres) it even has a ‘self-declaration’ clause, which will ensure issuance of permission from urban local bodies. For larger projects of more than 20,000 sq metres size, the EC and building permission will be given by urban local bodies simultaneously in an ‘integrated format’.
The petition said the purpose of including the building and construction projects in the EIA notification, is a failure of the urban local bodies and development authorities.