New Delhi: Facing criticism for proposing changes in environmental norms for the construction sector, which critics have alleged will benefit the construction industry at the cost of environmental checks, the Union environment ministry has formed a committee to consider the objections before finalising the changes.
The four-member committee formed on 27 September has been given two months’ time to give its report. The committee has had four meetings so far and would soon submit its final report.
Earlier this year, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) published a draft notification (29 April 2016) proposing integrating environmental conditions with building permissions granted by local authorities under state-specific land laws. The draft meant that after such integration, construction projects would not require compulsory clearances under the Environment Protection Act.
As per the current norms, building and construction projects with built-up area over 20,000 sq. metres and above require green clearances. However, in the proposed system, three categories of buildings—5,000-20,000 sq. metres, 20,000-50,000 sq. metres and 50,000-150,000 sq. metres—are being created where standard conditions are slightly stricter for larger buildings than smaller ones.
Subsequently, the proposal came under heavy criticism from environmentalists who alleged that it will result in bypassing of environmental checks like environment impact assessment of construction projects may be given a miss.
“The committee formed on 27 September is a result of criticism that the ministry faced in the past few months only,” said a senior official of the MoEFCC, who did not wish to be identified.
The committee includes S.K. Srivastava, additional director in MoEFCC, Chandra Bhushan of NGO Centre for Science and Environment, Mili Majumdar of Green Business Certification Institute Pvt. Ltd and Tanmay Tathagat, director at consulting firm Environmental Design Solution.
The 27 September order states that the 29 April draft notification “needs to be finalised after analysing and incorporating the comments received from the public, if need be after offering the opportunity of hearing”.
“The committee would consider the objections /suggestions of stakeholders,” said the 27 September MoEFCC order, which was reviewed by Mint.
A member of the four-member committee, who did not wish to be identified, said they are not aware whether the order regarding the committee’s formation was made public or not.
“We have analysed the comments and suggestions that MoEFCC had received. Our report is nearly finalised and we would submit it to the ministry soon,” the member said.
Another committee member, who also did not wish to be identified, said, “The 29 April draft notification had received hundreds of comments and suggestions. There were several loopholes in that notification. We have had four meetings of the committee and have analysed all the comments. The committee would now soon give its final report.”
The proposed changes by MoEFCC is significant as India is set to witness rapid urbanisation up to 2030 and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has pledged housing for all by 2022.