Today's Paper

Environment assessment must for major construction projects

CHENNAI OCT. 28. Even as preparations are under way for laying the foundation stone for an aesthetic, ultra-modern Secretariat complex in the city, the Union Environment Ministry has notified that any new major construction will have to undergo an environment impact assessment (EIA).

The notification was issued yesterday, following a Supreme Court directive. The court had asked the Ministry to "amend the rules under the Environment (Protection) Act so as to require the environment impact assessment for purposes of town planning Acts."

The directive was issued in December 2001, on a writ petition seeking to end pollution of the Yamuna. The petition was based on reports in a section of the Press.

Subsequently, the "Centre took a serious view of the continuing pollution of rivers and other waterbodies and in order to control further deterioration of water quality, it is felt necessary that new projects relating to construction of townships, industrial townships, settlement colonies, commercial complexes, hotel complexes, hospitals, office complexes for 1,000 persons and above or discharging sewage of 50,000 litres/day and above or with an investment of Rs.50 crores and above and new industrial estates irrespective of the area if their pollution potential is high, are proposed to be brought under the purview of EIA," says the notification.

The proponent intending to implement a project in a phased manner or in modules shall be required to submit the detailed report of the entire project covering all phases or modules for appraisal under EIA; the proponent intending to take up projects of a very urgent nature during the pendency of the draft notification shall be required to submit a certificate from the local bodies/authorities concerned with regard to availability of sewage treatment capacity in their existing plant for incremental quantity to be generated by the project. Such projects can be considered by the Government for environmental clearance on a priority basis on receipt of the complete proposal with all relevant documents subject to verification; new construction projects where construction work has not come up to the plinth level on the date of issue of this draft notification shall require clearance under the EIA notification.

Even new industrial estates, where the construction work has not commenced when or the expenditure does not exceed 25 per cent of the total sanctioned cost on the date of issue of the notification have to seek clearance.

The Environment Ministry said the Government had been implementing various measures for control of pollution from various sources — industrial, domestic and biomedical. But the measures were successful only partly. The Ministry faulted the local bodies for not properly maintaining the sewage system and the installed treatment capacity.

Explaining the reasons behind the notification, the Ministry said that even for construction of a house in a panchayat, plans were approved only after a provision had been made for a septic tank. "For an industrial project, an effluent treatment plant is necessary and for an industrial estate a common effluent treatment plant is necessary."

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