The Delhi High Court has stayed the Centre’s notification by which building and construction projects with 20,000 to 50,000 sqm built-up area and industrial sheds, educational institutions etc., of 20,000 to 1,50,000 sqm built-up area were kept out of the regulatory regime of the Environment Protection Act and the powers of the Centre to ensure compliance with specified environmental conditions were delegated to local bodies such as municipalities, development authorities, district panchayats etc.
The high court has stayed the notifications dated November 14 and 15, according to which building projects upto 50,000 sqm built-up area and industrial sheds, hospitals, educational institutions and their hostels upto 1,50,000 sqm built-up area would not require prior environment clearance or Environment Impact Assessment as per the EIA notification, 2006.
The stay has been granted on a petition moved by NGO Social Action for Forest and Environment (SAFE).
SAFE, through its founder Vikrant Tongad, said in its petition that “building and construction projects are responsible for 40 per cent energy use, 30 per cent raw material use, and 20 percent water and land use and cause 40 per cent carbon emission and 30 per cent solid waste generation…building and construction sector is a major contributor to water pollution, air pollution, flooding due to rampant building construction projects on city sinks and choking of city drains”.
It said the impugned notification was nothing but an abridged version of the December 9, 2016, notification that was quashed by the National Green Tribunal as it also sought to take out building projects upto 1,50,000 sqm area out of the purview of the Act and the EIA notification, 2006, and entrust them to local/ non-expert bodies.
SAFE said the Ministry of Environment and Forests was once again issuing a similar notification without there being any change in the technical competence of the local bodies to assess, evaluate and monitor environmental norms to ensure compliance.
It said the EIA notification has a comprehensive process of evaluating a project’s impact on environment with an expert committee at the Centre and at the state level while the local bodies to which the impugned notification refers to have no such expertise.
It also contended that the exclusion of projects of built-up area of 20,000 to 50,000 sqm is also contrary to the recommendations of the Kasturirangan committee constituted by the Centre to review the provisions of the EIA notification.
Besides, it also submitted that the CAG Report, 2016 had also spoken of urban local bodies not following environmental parameters.