The National Green Tribunal has quashed provisions of a December 2016 notification by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MoEF), restoring the requirement for procuring an Environment Clearance (EC) for construction activities.
The govt notification on December 2016 sought changes to some provisions of Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2006, that required prior Environmental Clearance (EC) for building and construction activities.
As per the ammendment to the EIA 2016 notification, prior environmental clearances from the State Environmental Impact Assessment Authority were no longer required, and clearances could instead be asked for from a local authority while construction and development was ongoing.
Before the 2016 ammendment, all building and construction covering 20,000 sq. mtr. and above were subject to environmental clearance given by the State Level Environmental Impact Assessment Authority.
The govt had simplified the processes, claiming to have made the changes to enhance the 'ease of doing responsible business'.
"Under the revised norms, the environmental clearance will now be issued in an integrated manner alongwith the building permission under building bye laws for all building constructions covering 20,000 to 1,50,000 sq. mtr. of built up area." the press release read.
That means an Environment Clearance, which was mandatory under the 2006 EIA notification, will no longer be required and building permissions by urban local bodies will substitute that.
Quashing the notification, the NGT said the notification "will have an adverse impact on environment, ecology and natural resources."
"In fact, it is contended that it will also have serious repercussion on climate change. The Notification though claims to serve the social cause of providing housing for the poor but, in fact, the result of its enforcement would be contrary. It would permit construction of huge buildings and apartments without strictly complying with the environmental norms,” the Live Law has quoted the Tribunal as saying in its order.
With the quashing of the 2016 notification, the EIA 2016 provisions have been restored.
However, the Green body reserved provisions that sought to decentralise regulations aimed at promoting housing for all.
The government had, in December 2016, sought ammendments to the EIA 2006 notification as "another step towards decentralization, delegation of powers and enhancing the Ease of Doing Responsible Business."
A notification issued on December 9th, 2016 states : "Streamlining the permissions for buildings and construction sector.. is important for providing houses and for this purpose the scheme of Housing for all by 2022 with an objective of making available affordable housing to weaker sections in urban area has ambitious target."
The NGT has condemned the act of diluting environmental norms in the interest of ‘ease of doing responsible business’ under the garb of ‘housing for all’.
It noted that "the said amendment notification is only a ploy to circumvent the provisions of environmental assessment under the EIA Notification, 2006 in the name of ‘ease of doing responsible business’ and there is no mechanism laid down under the amendment notification for evaluation, assessment or monitoring of the environmental impact of the building and construction activity.”
Quashing the notification, the Green body noted the notification was not well thought of, and was issued without conducting proper study and research.
In a strong worded attack, the Tribunal said " the notification attempts to hide behind the poor for the benefit of the builders."