The National Green Tribunal on Thursday suspended the environmental clearance granted to the construction of a housing complex adjacent to the Delhi University campus and constituted a committee to study the viability of the project.
A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said there was no application of mind by the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) while granting the environmental clearance (EC).
Applying the "precautionary principle" of environmental law, the NGT on January 8 had directed Young Builders (P) Ltd in north Delhi that no construction activity should be carried out.
"We find merit in the contention on behalf of the appellant that there was hardly any application of mind by SEIAA to the available data and to the impact of the project on environment, before granting EC. To give effect to Sustainable Development and Precautionary principles, EC cannot be granted without such assessment and evaluation, which is also known as 'Carrying Capacity Assessment'.
"Such assessment becomes all the more necessary when the available data shows that environmental norms are in excess of prescribed parameters," the bench said.
The tribunal formed a committee comprising representative from the environment ministry, senior scientists from the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education, Central Ground Water Board, Central Pollution Control Board, representatives of National Disaster Management Authority, School of Planning and Architecture and senior scientists from Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology and G B Pant Institute, Almora and IIT Kanpur.
First meeting of the committee may be held preferably within two weeks from Thursday, the tribunal said.
It also made it clear that its order of status quo on construction of a housing complex will remain in force.
The NGT said it is difficult to uphold sustainability of the project in terms of carrying capacity and permissibility of grant of EC without a proper assessment which has not been done.
"While prima facie the project does not appear to be viable for the reasons already mentioned, we are of the view that least which ought to be done is to suspend the EC, consequential Consent to Establish and further activities of the project proponent and have an independent evaluation conducted in the interest of environment and public health," it said.
The tribunal said the data furnished by the project proponent itself shows that air quality in the area has no carrying capacity to permit any additive load in terms ambient air.
"In absence thereof, permitting a project adding to load of pollution will be against the Sustainable Development and Precautionary principles which are tenets of right to life. Similar is the position with regard to noise levels and traffic congestion," the bench said adding EC has been granted mechanically.
"Considering that carrying capacity of the area to sustain such high rise building has not been conducted and that the air and noise levels are already beyond permissible limits, the building is located very close to reserve forest, river Yamuna, premier educational institutions and hospitals and areas with high traffic density, we find it difficult to hold that there is application of mind in granting the EC.
"We are of the view that sustainability of this project was required to be evaluated by undertaking carrying capacity assessment," the tribunal said.
The tribunal had passed the order on a plea by the Delhi University challenging the environmental clearance granted to a housing project by Young Builders (P) Ltd in north Delhi.
The plea challenged the order of the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority granting environmental clearance for the housing complex located at 1 and 3 Cavalry Lane and 4 Chhatra Marg at Civil Lines here.
It said EC could be granted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests and not by SEIAA as the project is within 10 km from a critically polluted area, notified by CPCB.
"Najafgarh, Naraina, Wazirpur and Anand Parbat are critically polluted areas. The project is in Silence Zone being within 100 m from Delhi University and Patel Chest Institute. The area is in water scarcity zone. The sulphate content of groundwater is above the specified limit.
"As per the project proponent's own report, the project is susceptible to subsidence and liquefaction during major earthquake. Geo-Technical investigation needs to be carried out which has not been done. Traffic plans and congestion filed by the project proponent with the application is based on the statistics of July 2011," the plea said.