Decks have been cleared for the launch of the construction of the much delayed SmartCity Kochi project with the State Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC) deciding to recommend environment clearance for the first phase of the project.

A meeting of SEAC held in Thiruvananthapuram on Saturday took the decision that is likely to bring cheer to the Dubai-based promoters and the State government.

“We have decided to recommend environment clearance for the first phase of the SmartCity Kochi project to the State Level Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA),” P. Sreekantan Nair, Secretary, SEAC, told The Hindu. The proposal for environment clearance for the project is likely to find a place in the agenda of the SEIAA meeting scheduled for July 19.

SEAC had initially deferred its recommendation for environmental clearance earlier this year based on the inference that the proposal submitted by the promoters had “many factual errors and lacked a specific plan of environmental management”.

The SEAC found that the conceptual plan submitted by the promoter did not show most of the amenities proposed for the project, among other things, like the proposed building with total number of floors, location of sewage treatment plant, solid waste storage area, green belt, rainwater harvesting, water recharge pits and location of tube wells.

This forced the promoters to submit a fresh application after addressing the shortcomings pointed out by the committee.

Though SEAC had asked the promoters to submit the master plan for the entire project, the plan for the first phase spread over 50 acres was submitted on Saturday. This is, however, unlikely to hamper the launch of construction.

“At least, they had clear cut idea about the first phase, which was not the case initially,” Mr. Nair said.

Baju George, SmartCity (India) managing director, said he was confident that SEAC was convinced of the justification the company gave for not producing the master plan for the entire project. “We said that we plan to proceed with the first phase to save time. Anyway we will have to approach the committee with the plan for the second building in six months by which time the master plan will also be complete,” he said.

Mr. George said the promoters had vetted the application by Chennai-based consultants ABC Techno Labs before submitting it to SEAC. He was confident of getting the clearance within two weeks.

SEAC has recommended the setting up of a greenbelt made of indigenous plant species, alternative energy sources, secondary source of water, and facility to store rainwater to meet at least a month’s need. SmartCity Kochi CEO Gigo Joseph and R. K. Jayaseelan of ABC Techno Labs were also present.

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