Moneycontrol
| Source: Moneycontrol.com

Fresh push to housing: Environment clearance norms for projects eased

To promote Housing for All by 2022, the government has decided to simply the process of procuring an environment clearance by notifying that all projects greater than 5000 sq m but less than 20,000 sq m can now go in for a self declaration that they are following green norms.

To promote Housing for All by 2022, the government has decided to simplify the process of procuring an environment clearance by notifying that all projects greater than 5000 sq m but less than 20,000 sq m can now go in for a self-declaration that they are following green norms.

Environment clearances take a long time to procure and are perhaps the biggest contributor to real estate project delays, often taking more than 18 months.

The amendment notification says that the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change “has received suggestions for ensuring Ease of Doing Responsible Business; and streamlining the permissions for buildings and construction sector which 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 an ambitious target.”

For smaller projects (less than 20,000 sq metre) it has a "self-declaration" clause which will ensure issuance of permission from urban local bodies. For larger projects of over 20,000 sq metre to less than 1.5 lakh sq metre, the environmental clearance and building permission will be given by urban local bodies simultaneously in an "integrated format."

Earlier, EC was mandatory for construction projects larger than 20,000 sq metres under EIA notification 2006. It had to be procured from the state environment agency or State Level Environmental Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) but now a developer can take it from the local municipality or the authority at the time of applying for clearance of building plans.

Rohit Raj Modi, Vice President, North, Credai (Confederation of Real Estate Developers Association of India), an apex body of private developers, says that this is a step in the right direction and will definitely save time and duplication efforts. But until now only two states have incorporated these norms as part of their bylaws and these include Delhi and Mumbai.

“All state authorities should ensure that these are made part of their byelaws on time for ease of doing business purpose,” he says.

Environment Norms Not Stringent

While steps taken to simply the environment clearance process cuts down on time, these bylaws adopted by the state authorities are not as comprehensive or as stringent as that of the EIA, says Anupam Jain, Aadjunct Associate Professor, School of Construction RICS SBE—Green Building Policy, Planning and Development.

“Reducing delay is good but exempting all projects from environment scrutiny is not. The degree of detail and scientific criteria that third-party ratings such as LEED, GRIHA etc have is missing in the local byelaws," he says.

Until a proper environment cell is created in development authorities, it will make it easier for most real estate developers to bypass environmental scrutiny if the notification is allowed. The bylaws should be amended to include EIA requirements therein, except for the time-consuming survey and test requirements, says Jain.

The recently revised National Building Code 2016 has also created new chapters on sustainability, construction management and safety, asset and facility management. However, these are still short of the industry standard green building rating systems such as LEED, GRIHA and IGBC, says Jain.

Also, the gazette notification released by the government has been stayed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT). The NGT has found the notification to be “absurd” and said that all constructions for the time being will be subject to the Tribunal's orders in the matter.
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