Urban development and Environment, don’t go together?

NEW DELHI: After mooting the move to do away with prior green clearances for big building projects, the Union environment ministry has delayed notifying these major changes even as the urban development ministry went ahead with its Model Building Bye-laws 2016 incorporating these points.

The bye-laws, unveiled in March this year, promise to ease construction norms in the country by doing away with the need to get separate environmental clearance for big building projects. It entrusts the responsibility of monitoring and ensuring compliance of environmental conditions to local urban bodies such as municipalities.

On Tuesday , the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) said it had issued a draft notification and was in the process of considering people’s comments on integrating environmental clearance into building permissions, as envisaged in the UD ministry’s model bye-laws.

MoEF explained that the proposed notification would not take away buildings of the size of 20,000-1,50,000 square metres from the purview of the Environment Impact Assessment, 2006 (EIA) and the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, but only incorporate these standard environmental conditions into the building permits.

TOI has access to RTI responses given by MoEF on its decision to make environment compliance a part of the building plan approval process.

The replies reveal that the ministry had in fact taken a decision to keep the buildings sector out of the purview of (EIA) in consultation with the urban development ministry .

In an office memorandum on March 4, 2016 addressed to the urban development secretary , the environment ministry recommended that the heading of the chapter on environment “should use the word `integration of environmental clearance with building permissions’ in place of `delegation of environmental clearance to local authorities'”.

The RTI responses include a February 15 letter from urban development minister M Venkaiah Naidu to former environment minister Prakash Javadekar in which Naidu writes: “My ministry supported the proposed framework for integrating environmental clearances with the permission to construct buildings. It is hoped that this will immensely help real estate business as a landmark step in ease of doing business by ensuring the environmental concerns related to construction of buildings”.

Another letter, that of Neeraj Mandloi, urban development joint secretary , to Javadekar, suggests that the ministry planned to use the words `would like to dispense with environment clearance’, but was advised to use instead the words `integrate environmental clearance with building permissions’. Since building laws are a state subject, the UD ministry’s model building bye-laws are recommendatory in nature. The first agency to incorporate the new guidelines was Delhi Development Authority, which notified the Unified Building Byelaws for Delhi on March 22.

Interestingly, the decision to integrate green clearance with building permissions was taken as early as March as reflected in the RTI documents. However, the environ ment ministry released a draft notification only in April 2016 asking for the public’s comments on the issue, stating that it was an important step in implementing the “Housing for all by 2022″ scheme.

Credits ET Realty

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