The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has directed Ansal Properties and Infrastructure Ltd to pay an environment compensation of Rs 100 crore for alleged violation of regulations at its Sushant Lok Phase I property in Gurugram.
The penalty, say environment experts, will send a strong message to realtors who have not secured green clearances or those who do not have the consent to establish and operate before commencing work on a project.
Pranav Ansal, vice chairman and whole time director at Ansal Properties and Infrastructure Ltd, told Moneycontrol that the company has not yet received the letter from the CPCB. “We cannot comment on the course of action we will take until we receive the letter,” he said.
Ansal said that licences for Sushant Lok were received in the 1980s, when there were no pollution norms. A similar case had been filed before and “the SC (supreme court) had given us a stay on the matter. We handed over this colony to the RWA 10-12 years ago and it was subsequently handed over to the municipal corporation of Gurgaon six years back. They are managing these projects now. We are out of these projects for the last 15 years,” he said.
What the CPCB directive says
The letter from CPCB chairman Tanmay Kumar, dated June 7, 2022 and sent by email/Speed Post, had directed the real estate firm to pay an environment compensation of Rs 100 crore to the CPCB on or within 15 days of receipt of the directive.
“In case of delay in deposition of the environment compensation, interest shall be charged as per rules,” it said.
Moneycontrol has a copy of the letter.
NGT had imposed the Rs 100 crore fine and CPCB is enforcing the order.
The CPCB letter noted that in its order dated September 28, 2021, the National Green Tribunal had referred to the Supreme Court judgment in the matter of Goel Ganga Developers India Pvt Ltd versus Union of India, wherein environment compensation at the amount of Rs 100 crore or 10% of the total project cost or whichever is higher may be imposed. As 10% of the said amount (total project cost) would be Rs 1514.938 lakh, which is less than Rs 100 crore, Ansal Properties & Infrastructure is required to deposit Rs 100 crore to CPCB, the letter said.
Further, it ordered the company to pay additional environmental compensation, as determined by the Central Ground Water Authority, on account of extraction of ground water without permission and also for a defunct rainwater harvesting system in Sushant Lok Phase 1, Gurugram.
It also asked the realty firm to submit its action plan to the CPCB regarding rectification of the shortcomings highlighted above. An action taken report is to be submitted along with necessary documentary evidence immediately after completion of the action taken.
In addition, it directed the company to apply and obtain all no objection certificates, consents and environmental clearances from the concerned departments and noted that any violation of these directions would attract appropriate legal action without any further notice, in accordance with the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
The NGT order, issued in September 2021, had said: “Violations found in the present case include absence of EC (environment clearance), Consent to Establish, Consent to Operate and consent for extraction of groundwater. The compensation assessed is only on account of untreated sewage water discharge and illegal extraction of groundwater. No compensation has been assessed for establishing the project without prior EC. In view of law laid down in Goel Ganga Developers India Pvt. Ltd. v UOI, the scale of compensation has to be related to the cost of the project so as to operate as deterrent against the law violators. The scale of compensation, thus, needs to be revised.”
What the rules say
The Town and Country Planning Department of Haryana had granted several licences/permissions to Ansal Properties & Infrastructure Ltd from 1985 to 2011 under the Haryana Development and Regulation of Urban Areas Act, 1975 and Rules, 1976, for the setting up of a residential colony spread over 604.194 acres at Sushant Lok, Phase 1, in Sectors 27, 28, 43 and 52, Gurugram.
Per provisions of the Haryana Development and Regulation of Urban Areas Act, 1975, and the Urban Areas Rules, 1976, development works that were to be undertaken by the developer included maintenance and upkeep of all roads, open spaces, public parks, and public health services for a period of five years from the date of issue of the completion certificate.
External development works under these provisions include any or all infrastructure development works, including water supply, sewerage, drains, provisions of treatment and disposal of sewage, sullage and stormwater, roads, electrical works, solid waste management and disposal, slaughter houses, colleges, hospitals, stadium/sports complex, fire stations, grid sub stations and or any other work, the letter noted.
The case pertains to the matter of Praveen Kakkar & Others vs MoEF & CC, which was filed before the NGT on September 4, 2018. It alleged that there is encroachment of parks in the green area in Block C of Sushant Lok, Phase 1, there was illegal extraction of groundwater, which is contaminated, and there is no sewerage treatment plant. The sewerage of the area connects to the storm water drain.
The plaintiff’s case had said that there was a requirement to leave 45% of the land for roads, open spaces, schools and public common use, per norms.
Later, the NGT, in its order dated September 19, 2019, had constituted a committee comprising representatives of the Central Pollution Control Board, Town and Country Planning Department, Haryana; Delhi School of Planning and Architecture, Central Ground Water Authority and State Environment Impact Assessment Authority. The committee members had inspected the site and submitted their report, which had noted encroachments such as hutments, and that the green belt had not been developed in line with the norms.
No clearance or consent
The committee had noted that the developer is yet to obtain environmental clearance and that consent to establish and consent to operate have not been obtained. This is a violation of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, and Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.
In addition, the committee had noted that the developer had applied for registration of 39 tubewells with the Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA) but a no objection certification for extraction of ground water from the said agency was not available.
It had also noted that rainwater harvesting systems for houses had not been provided and rainwater harvesting structures for open spaces and common areas were non-functional. The basic purpose of ground water recharge is not being achieved in these structures, the letter noted.
The committee also said that sewage was being released into the stormwater drain and not going through the sewerage system to HUDA STP; maintenance of roads and footpaths was not up to the mark, the system of waste collection was not effective, and that the construction and demolition waste management Rules of 2016 and their guidelines were not being followed.
Akash Vashishtha, environment lawyer, told Moneycontrol that a compensation as high as Rs 100 crore should act as a deterrent to other developers. It sends a strong message that securing environmental compliances is important, he said.
Vashishtha added that the Central Pollution Control Board has evolved a mathematical formula to calculate the environment compensation. The amount depends on the number of days a company has been operating a facility without obtaining consent to establish and consent to operate. The levy takes into account factors such as human habitation in and around the project and the damage caused to the people living therein, damage to the ecology or the environment, as also the cost that goes into the mitigation.
The Consent to Establish before setting up any industry gives a description of the physical environment around the project, the land, water resources, topography, rivers, lakes, water bodies etc. It is granted after a full site verification.
The Consent to Operate is required before the operation of a process or activity. The consent to operate requires a project proponent to inter alia maintain a certain green area, install pollution control devices, harvest rainwater, and recycle and reuse systems within the project premises.
Permissions are also required for extraction of ground water, which is obtained from the Central Ground Water Authority. In states that have their own ground water regulation laws, prior permissions are required from the designated state authorities under such laws. In the absence of state regulations, permission has to be sought from the CGWA.If the Consent to Establish and Consent to Operate have not been received, it amounts to a violation of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, and Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, by the project promoter, Vashishtha explains.