A bench headed by National Green Tribunal (NGT) chairperson Swatanter Kumar, has sought a response from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), on an application filed by the Society for Protection of Environment and Biodiversity in a pending petition, which has challenged the Ministry of Environment and Forests’ (MoEF’s) recent notification exempting real estate projects from obtaining prior environmental clearance. The NGT bench posted the matter for next hearing to February 15, 2017.
The plea, filed by advocates Sanjay Upadhyay and Salik Shafique, sought a stay on the CPCB’s February 2 letter to the state pollution control boards, saying it was in violation of the provisions of the Water Act and Air Act, in pursuance to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) amendment notification on December 9, 2016. It said this move “Will further deteriorate the natural environment and ecology”.
See also: Builders to pay for air pollution: NGT
As per the CPCB’s circular, all projects requiring environment clearance are exempted from ‘consent to establish’ and they can directly be granted ‘consent to operate’, subject to environment clearance granted by the State Level Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) and MoEF.
The plea said that as per the provisions of Water Act and Air Act, prior consent of the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) is required for establishment of any industry and application in a prescribed format is required to be submitted before the board. As per earlier procedure, the ‘consent to establish’ is required before commencement of construction activities on the site and the ‘consent to operate’ is needed before commencement of production activities.
“Respondent number 3 (CPCB) by way of an executive order, is violating the provisions of the two important environment legislations of the country. It is also pertinent to mention that procedure of issuance of the ‘consent to establish’ also requires physical inspection by the officer of the SPCB, to ensure the compliance by the industries. Doing away with the requirement of ‘consent to establish’ will be disastrous for environment. Moreover, monitoring of the project during the construction phase, by the SPCB will be completely ruled out, as the role of the SPCB will only commence after the grant of the ‘consent to establish’ and ‘consent to operate’,” the plea said.
In the petition relating to MoEF’s notification, the bench had earlier refused to stay the December 9, 2016 notification but had restrained it from granting any fresh permission under the new regulations. The MoEF’s amended notification exempts building and construction projects of all sizes from the process of EIA and prior environmental clearance before beginning construction. For smaller projects (less than 20,000 sq metres), the amended notification 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’.