The Union Environment & Forests Ministry has decided that construction projects extending over 20,000 sqm will have to get Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) clearance.

This is a major departure from the EIA notification issued in 2006, which had increased the threshold limit for construction projects from 20,000 sqm to 50,000 sqm and area development projects from 50 hectares to 100 hectares.

The return to the earlier regime has been mandated on the basis of the report of the committee set up to examine comments received on the proposed draft amendments to the 2006 EIA notification. In view of the concerns voiced from various quarters, the notification had not come into effect till date.

While recommending a return to status quo, the committee took the view that the earlier limit of 20,000 sqm itself is itself a fairly large area in the Indian context. It amounts to 200 apartments in a composite apartment building and the project population would be 1,000 which would require 140 kilolitres of water supply a day and 112 kilolitres of sewage treatment per day.

Similarly, 100 hectares is very large for a township as a modern petroleum refinery can be set up in such a big area. “Increasing the threshold limits for building construction and township and area development projects would result only in chaos as there is no examination of these proposals for their environmental impacts.”

Add to this, the fact that even now with a lower threshold, project managers tend to split their projects into two or three parts to avoid the environmental appraisal, the committee observed.

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