CHENNAI: In a move that could revive the realty sector — and give a fillip to constructions — the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change is reportedly mulling relaxation of norms for residential projects by doing away with the mandatory prior environment clearance (EC). At present, the EC is mandatory for projects of over 20,000 sqm built-up area.
Sources in the ministry told Express that it has drafted a notification that would clear the present uncertainty about the necessity of getting EC for builders across the country. The ministry is in consultation with the Law Ministry to ensure there are no legal hurdles in notifying the fresh rules. However, the proposal may not have smooth sailing, with the Supreme Court closely monitoring it. When the MoEF counsel submitted before the apex court during a previous hearing that the ministry was working on a notification that would address all concerns about the EC, the court had cautioned that the notification should keep in mind litigation pending before it in which six builders from TN are impleaded.
The MoEF counsel had on Friday submitted a 600-page draft notification before the three-member bench headed by Chief Justice of India T S Thakur. However, the draft notification lacks clarity on the necessity for EC. It mainly speaks about quantum of violations (minor and major) and the penalty. The details of the final notification may be informed to the SC during the next hearing scheduled on April 6, sources said.
“The ministry may also decentralise powers by entrusting more responsibilities on local authorities like Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA), which gives planning permissions,” a source told Express.
As per the Environment Impact Assessment notification, those undertaking 20,000 sqm and 1.50 lakh sqm built-up area residential and commercial projects respectively will have to mandatorily obtain prior EC from the MoEF. It applies to residential and commercial buildings, hotels, hospitals, parks, office blocks, and information technology and software developments units. Industrial sheds, schools and hostels of educational institutions are exempted.
President of the Confederation of Real Estate Developers Association of India (Credai), Ajit Kumar Chordia, said that while norms were relaxed for educational institutions as per the ministry’s order in December 2014, and industrial structures up to 1.5 lakh sqm, environmental clearance is compulsory for a residential building of over 20,000 sqm. “Residential projects are not a red category industry to be treated like this,” he said.
An environmental activist, who sought anonymity, said such a move by the Centre would be dangerous.