iconimg Thursday, September 03, 2015

Kunal Purohit, Hindustan Times
Mumbai, March 07, 2011
Two towers in Kandivli (East) could be given post-construction environmental clearance and be regularised although the Environment Protection Act, 1986, makes it mandatory for builders to get clearance before construction. The State Environmental Impact Assessment Authority today might decide on the State Expert Appraisal Committee’s (SEAC) recommendation dated October 2010 that the twin towers, Veena Saaz, constructed by Nikunj Developers, be granted post-construction environmental clearance.

Nikunj Developers initially did not apply for environmental clearance saying the built-up area of the project is less than 20,000sq m, the cut-off for getting a green nod. They applied for it in January 2010, after the two towers were ready and one had an occupation certificate from the civic body.

Harish Sanghavi, of Nikunj Developers, said: “These allegations are false. All our permissions are in place.”

Nikunj Developers bought the development rights for the plot from Videocon Realty & Infrastructure, which had already constructed two buildings, Videocon towers A and B, on it. Vidya Kale, in-house architect of Videocon Realty & Infrastructure, said: “Videocon has developed its part of the project and has handed over development rights to Nikunj Developers. Beyond this, we are not connected with this project.”

Documents with HT show that in December 2006, Nikunj applied to the fire brigade for a no-objection certificate (NoC) for constructing Veena Saaz. While this application said the total built-up area of the two buildings was 21,760.70sq m — more than the cut-off for getting an environmental clearance — the builder’s submission to the environment department said the area was only 14,926.75sq m and does not require a green nod.

The developer’s application to the SEAC for a post-construction nod mentioned the area as 23,109.77sq m.

Residents of tower Videocon A had moved the Bombay high court against the developer claiming irregularities. The high court dismissed this petition but directed the environment department to examine the lack of clearance.

During the hearing in April 2010, the developer again changed the total built-up area to 14,831.02sq metres. Singh, then, passed an order concluding that the project doesn’t need environmental clearance.

“I had passed that order on the basis of documents made available to me. We are very flexible about reviewing the decision,” Singh said. She added that a verification process was on. “I have written to the BMC asking for the actual built-up area of the two towers, as per their records,” Singh said.

Deepak Kulkarni, deputy chief engineer (building proposals), western suburbs, defended the decision to grant the building an OC. “As far as I remember, the [built-up area of] building was below 20,000 sq m and hence, we gave the OC,” he said.