NGT issues notice to MoEFCC and MoUD for dilution of construction norms

NAGPUR: The National Green Tribunal (NGT), Principal Bench at Delhi, on Monday issued notice to ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC) and ministry of urban development (MoUD) for dilution of laws for buildings and constructions.

The notice was issued in an application filed by Pushp Jain, director, EIA Resource and Response Centre (ERC), who is associated with protection of environment, forest and wildlife for over 35 years.

The MoEF & CC, whose job is to protect country’s natural resources, issued notification on December 9, 2016, amending the provisions of Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification of 2006. This in effect has removed the entire construction sector (up to 1,50,000 sq mt built up area) from the purview of environmental laws including the Environment (Protection) Act 1986; Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1981 & Water (Prevention and control of pollution) Act 1974.

The MoUD, which formulates laws relating to housing and urban development, has issued Model Building bye-laws in March 2016. One of the aims of the bye-laws is to address growing environmental concerns. Currently this objective of environmental safeguard is achieved through obtaining a specific environmental clearance (EC) for any construction project having a size of more than 20,000 sqmts.

However, Jain says the impugned notification not only dilutes existing environmental legislations, it is completely vague and ambiguous with terms like ‘as far as possible’, ‘as much as possible’, have been used several times with respect to various stipulated conditions. “The new notification, completely exempts construction projects from taking wildlife clearance even if the project site is within 10km radius of national parks, wildlife sanctuaries or protected areas,” said Jain.

The laws have been bended to gain political mileage. ‘Housing for all’ is main target of ‘Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna’, which plans to cover 20 million household to slum poor and urban poor by 2022.

However, the notification has the effect of extending such an exemption to all other residential buildings, shopping malls, office complexes, multiplexes, IT buildings, educational institutions, hostels, etc. “Such an exemption under the guise of housing for urban poor is an eyewash and therefore, it is to be quashed,” the applicant states.

The notification ignores adverse environmental impacts due to construction sector, which is a huge contributor to air pollution as well as climate change as per the MoUD bye-laws itself. Jain says intensive construction activities directly relates to an increase in energy and water consumption, amount of waste generated and the impacts of the same on natural resources due to such constructions would be unprecedented.

The environmentalist says construction sector emits about 22% of India’s total annual CO2 emissions, according to a ‘Case Study for Construction in India’ — by Development Alternatives. The removal of construction activities from the purview of the EIA Notification, 2006 will only mean a larger carbon footprint, and consequently, a breach of India’s international obligations, which it submitted in the form of a Climate Action Plan.

Credits ET Realty

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