Real estate developers have at last got something to cheer about. The Ministry of Environment and Forests recently decided that the timelines stipulated in the Environmental Impact Assessment Notification, 2006, would have to be strictly followed by the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority and the State Expert Appraisal Committee while processing proposals for Terms of Reference/Environmental Clearance pertaining to building and construction and township and area development projects.
Real estate projects routinely face inordinate delays in securing EC. The delays, in a majority of the cases, lead to substantial cost escalation, the brunt of which is ultimately borne by the buyers.
In December last year, a ten-member committee under the chairmanship of Dr. K. Kasturirangan, Member, Planning Commission, was constituted by the MoEF to review the provisions of the EIA Notification, 2006, relating to grant of EC for roads, buildings and SEZ projects, as well as the February 2012 guidelines for high rise buildings.
The committee has already submitted its report.
One of the terms of reference of the committee was to review the requirement of EC for buildings and real estate projects so as to avoid duplication considering that such projects are covered by local civic authorities and under provisions of the relevant master plan, building control regulations and safety regulations.
The MoEF’s decision concerning adherence to timelines stipulated in the EIA Notification, 2006, is in line with the recommendation of the committee on the ToR. It requires the SEAC to make appropriate recommendations within 60 days of the receipt of the complete proposal from project proponents. The SEIAA would consider recommendations of the SEAC and convey its decision to the applicant within 45 days of the receipt of recommendations.
The MoEF is going to regularly review the progress in disposal of cases by SEIAAs with the objective of meeting the timelines.
In order to avoid delays in processing of proposals, project proponents have to provide complete information at the time of submission of documents for ToR/EC.
To ensure adherence to the stipulated timelines, avoid duplication of work, and speed up the scrutiny process, the SEIAAs and SEACs would focus only on certain thrust areas of environmental sustainability while appraising building and construction and township and area development projects. The thrust areas include brief description of the project in terms of location and surroundings, environmental impacts on project land and its surrounding developments and vice-versa, water balance chart, waste water treatment and its details including target standards, alterations in the natural slope and drainage pattern and their environmental impacts on the surroundings, ground water potential of the site and likely impacts of the project, solid waste management during construction and post construction phases, air quality and noise levels and their likely impacts during construction and operational phases of the project, energy requirements, traffic circulation system and connectivity, green belt/green cover and landscape plan, disaster/risk assessment and management plan, socio economic impacts of the project and corporate social responsibility, environmental management plan during construction and operational phases, and any other related parameter of the project that could impact environmental sustainability and ecology.
The SEIAAs and the SEACs would not focus on other issues normally looked after by concerned local bodies, state government departments and state pollution control boards.
In case of large pendency, the state government could send a proposal to the MoEF for notifying another SEAC.