Eco-laws soft on mega projects | india | Hindustan Times
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Eco-laws soft on mega projects

The construction industry had been seeking complete exemption from EIA guidelines, on the ground it would hinder the growth of real estate.

india Updated: Sep 09, 2006 03:56 IST

The Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) guidelines cleared by the Prime Minister’s Office are likely to provide relief to the builders’ lobby opposed to the stringent environmental checks in the first EIA draft.

In the original draft, the states were to be vested with power to clear projects with investment less than Rs 100 crore. But the reworked draft, approved by the PMO, gives sweeping power to the states — they can clear projects of any value for which they do not require environmental clearance from the Centre.

Upset with the turn of events, green groups like the Campaign for Environmental Justice (CEJ) said the decision would impact the environment adversely. “State governments lack the technical wherewithal to assess the impact on environment of big construction projects,” said CEJ’s Souparna Lahiri. On its part, the PMO seems to have taken the middle path to accommodate warring lobbies. The construction industry had been seeking complete exemption from EIA guidelines, on the ground it would hinder the growth of real estate. The environment ministry had initially opposed the move, but eventually gave in. However, the PMO’s decision — that does not fully meet either the expectations of the eco-groups or the builders’ lobbies — is a major relief for the construction industry. The latter would not need Centre’s green signal for mega-projects even if they are related to the Commonwealth Games, the new metro rail or the proposed housing complex on mill land auctioned in Mumbai.

“Only EIA approval of the state governments will be required. We will have nothing to do with the construction business,” an environment ministry official told the HT.

“Last week, we got the go-ahead from the PMO to notify the new guidelines,” the official said. The decision will be announced formally after environment minister A Raja returns on Monday. However, several groups and Panchayati Raj Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar, PMK chief S Ramadoss and CPM’s Sitaram Yechuri have petitioned the ministry against notifying the guidelines without factoring in the views of different sections of the society.