Delhi HC stays exemption granted to realty projects from green nod

A bench of Delhi HC stayed the notification issued by the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEF &CC) on the pleas by two NGOs, which had challenged the ministry’s move to exempt builders from taking environmental clearance.

delhi Updated: Nov 27, 2018 16:01 IST
Richa Banka
Richa Banka
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
delhi,delhi HC,environment impact assessment
The notification was criticised in the backdrop of massive protests over a proposal earlier this year to fell more than 16,000 trees for the redevelopment of seven colonies in south Delhi.(Vipin Kumar/HT File )

The Delhi high court on Monday stayed a notification of the Centre, which had exempted the real estate builders from taking the environment impact assessment (EIA) for projects measuring 20,000 square feet to 50,000 square feet.

A bench of justice Ravindra Bhat and justice Prateek Jalan stayed the notification issued by the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEF &CC) on the pleas by two NGOs, which had challenged the ministry’s move to exempt builders from taking environmental clearance.

The plea, filed by the NGOs Society for Protection of Environment & Biodiversity (SPENBIO) and Social Action for Forest and Environment (SAFE), had contended that the move to keep builders out of the rigour of the EIA would lead to large-scale pan-India environmental degradation caused by construction projects.

On November 14, a day before issuing a notification exempting real estate projects below 50,000 sq feet from EIA, the ministry had issued a notification delegating the responsibility of monitoring whether real estate projects are meeting environmental standards to the local bodies such as municipalities and district panchayats.

The November 14 notification recommends that local bodies ensure compliance with the Energy Conservation Building Code. A minimum of one tree should be planted for every 80 square metre area, says the code, which also recommends that rainwater harvesting pits and water efficiency systems should be part of real estate projects. Local bodies, however, do not have the power to appraise or reject any of these projects.

Policy analysts and environmental activists criticised the notification, particularly in the backdrop of massive public protests earlier this year against a proposal to fell more than 16,000 trees for the redevelopment of seven colonies in south Delhi. The proposal was later dropped.

Appearing for the petitioners, senior advocates JS Patalia and Sachin Puri submitted that the notification is a clear violation and a wilful disobedience of the earlier orders of the high court. The plea also mentioned an order of the Supreme Court, wherein the apex court had directed that no construction would be carried out when the air quality is in the “severe” category. The air quality index, as recorded by the Central Pollution Control Board, measures the level of pollution and a reading of 400+ signifies severe levels of pollution.

“The impugned notification does not state any reason which is clear violation of Rule 5(2) of Environment Protection Rules, 1986. The notification, in fact serves the interest of builders, at the cost of environment notwithstanding the observations of the Supreme Court...,” the petition filed through advocate IK Kapila said.

The petitions had also sought that the notification be quashed and authorities be directed to submit all studies and material considered by it as a reason for the notification. The matter would be now heard on February 19.

First Published: Nov 27, 2018 16:01 IST