SmartCity Kochi has failed to secure environment clearance within 45 days as declared by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy on January 31. The company has not even filed a fresh application for environment clearance.
The Hindu had reported on January 30 that the State Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC) had deferred its recommendation for environmental clearance for the first phase of the project.
The recommendation was deferred because of the absence of a specific environmental management plan and many factual errors.
A day after the report appeared, Mr. Chandy announced while inaugurating a workshop on SmartCity that a fresh application would be filed within 15 days and environment clearance secured within 45 days.
More than a month-and-a-half after that announcement, the application is yet to be filed with the Department of Environment.
SmartCity Kochi authorities say that a fresh application will be filed in April. The need to effect significant changes in the design of the first building in the first phase of the project following the suggestions at the workshop and the need to incorporate them in the concept master plan are being cited as the reasons for the delay.
The floor area ratio needs to be increased considerably as there was a consensus on the need for a building which was two to three folds bigger than the building originally designed.
The changes should also be made to bring down the land coverage area so as to comply with the provision to provide 70 per cent green coverage.
While SmartCity Kochi claims that the first phase planned on 50 acres will be launched in June, the delay in applying for environment clearance is likely to have a cascading effect on the deadline of two years set for the completion of the first phase.
The fresh application received by the Department of Environment will have to be forwarded to the SEAC after initial vetting. The SEAC in turn will recommend the environment clearance to the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority only if the application is in order and the company is able to give satisfactory replies to the queries raised by it.
This was where the promoter was found wanting in the initial application. In fact, the SEAC even had to express its displeasure for having casually drawn up the application of such an ambitious project.
The conceptual plan submitted initially was bereft of the basic details 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, etc.
Meanwhile, SmartCity proposes to hold a ‘kick off meeting’ here on March 22 as part of going ahead with its plans for the first phase.