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Govt eases environmental clearance to build homes

NEW DELHI: Seeking to achieve a target of housing for all by 2022, the Centre has simplified the environmental clearance processes for building projects in the country. The move allows smaller projects to meet environment conditions through a 'self-declaration' process and spares the bigger projects the need of seeking prior green approvals before embarking on construction activity.

The changes were made through a gazette notification in the existing environment impact assessment rules last week which integrated environmental conditions in building bye-laws to fast-track the permission process for construction.

"Since the states are now required to bring changes in the respective building bye-laws so that it won't be in conflict with the central notification, the implementation of the new rules will take nearly six to seven months," said Manoj Kumar Singh, joint secretary in the environment ministry.

Singh told TOI on Wednesday that the notified changes were in tune with what was being followed in many countries, including Japan and Singapore. "Idea is to make more buildings follow environmental norms. It integrates standard environmental conditions with the building permission to cut delays."

The notification brings building project of the size of 5,000sq metres to less than 20,000sq meters within the ambit of fulfilling "environmental conditions" through self-declaration and certification procedures. Local authorities will have the power to take a final call on compliance of green norms. This category of project was earlier under the exempt group. "The local authority may issue the building permission incorporating environmental norms in it and allow the project to start based on self- declaration and certification," it said.

Projects of the size of 20,000sq metres to less than 1,50,000sq meters will be exempted from the existing procedure of 'prior environmental clearance' from the State-level Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA), which used to be a time consuming process.

This category of buildings will, however, not be spared of environment clearance. They are just not required any longer to go to state level environment assessment authorities. This category of building will now get simultaneous "building permission" and "environment clearance" from local authorities which will now also have an 'environment cell' for examining environmental parameters.

The cell will process the online applications and present it in the meeting of a committee of local bodies like development authorities and municipal corporations. The committee will appraise the project and stipulate the environmental conditions to be integrated in the building permissions. "After recommendations of the committee, the building permission and environmental clearance will be issued in an integrated format by the local authority", says the notification.

The move is aimed at "ensuring ease of doing responsible business" and streamlining the permission for construction sector which, the notification refers to as an important suggestion "for providing houses for all by 2022 with an objective of making available affordable housing to weaker sections in urban areas". Under the notification, only building projects of the size of 1.5 lakh sq metres to less than 3 lakh sq metres will have to go to the SEIAA for prior green clearance while the projects having more than 3 lakh sq metres will go to the environment ministry's central assessment authority.

It also has provisions of imposing penalties by state for non-compliance of the environmental conditions and parameters. Specific empanelled 'qualified building environment auditors' will assess and certify the projects. There are also provisions of financial penalty on the owner and blacklisting of the auditors in case of false declaration or certification.

Source : ET Realty

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