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NGT puts brakes on notification over EC for construction activities

PANAJI: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has put a stay on the latest notification issued by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), restoring the requirement for procuring an environment clearance (EC) for construction activities.

The central ministry, in a notification published on November 15, had amended the EIA 2016 notification that exempted buildings and constructions covering 20,000 square metres up to 50,000 square metres of built-up area and industrial sheds, educational institutions, hospitals and hostels for educational institutions up to 1,50,000 square metres, from obtaining environmental clearances from the state environmental impact assessment authority.

On contrary, the ministry delegated powers to local bodies to sanction such clearances while construction and development was ongoing.

“We stay operation of the impugned notification and direct that mechanism, existing prior to this notification, be continued till further orders,” the NGT principal bench presided by Justice Adarsh Goel said.

The matter has been now listed for next hearing on January 22, 2019. The NGT had earlier struck down dilution of norms for environment impact assessment which were found to be deviating from the ‘precautionary principle’ by delegating such powers to local authorities, which was held to be a retrograde step.

Prior to the amendment, all projects covering 20,000 square metres and above were required to carry out an environment impact assessment (EIA) study before starting construction to obtain environment clearance from the state-level environmental impact assessment authority.

Quashing the notification, the principal bench of the green court said that “we are prima facie of the view that mechanism in the impugned notification to substitute existing mechanism will fall short of the requirement of the principle of ‘sustainable development’ and ‘precautionary principle’ which are part of Article 21 of the Constitution as laid down by the Supreme Court in the case of N D Jayal vs Union of India (supra).”

The NGT said that it is the failure of the local bodies to apply law which has led to large-scale violation of town and country planning norms and the resultant environmental degradation and if large constructions are exempted from the purview of the expert appraisal committee, it will lead to failure to protect the environment which is the duty of the MoEF&CC under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, which was enacted to give effect to the international commitment under RIO Convention, 1992.

However, the green body expressed their desire to the provisions that sought to decentralise regulations but the same has to be done through a credible mechanism, it was stated.

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