Environmental clearance must for new big urban projects

NEW DELHI OCT. 28. In a major development, the Ministry of Environment and Forests has decided to bring new big urban projects under the purview of the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA), thereby making environmental clearance mandatory. Industrial estates with high pollution level will be brought under the EIA irrespective of the total area.

This follows a Supreme Court directive to the Centre to amend rules under the Environment (Protection) Act to require the EIA notification for the purpose of town planning.

The order will be applicable to construction of new townships, industrial townships, settlement colonies, commercial complexes, hotels, hospitals and office complexes for 1,000 people or more or discharging sewage of 50,000 litres a day and above or with an investment of Rs. 50 crores or more and new industrial estates having more than 50 hectares of land.

A draft notification issued here today by the Ministry envisaged that proposals relating to the projects will have to be certified by the local bodies/authorities with regard to the availability of sewage treatment capacity in their existing plant for incremental quantity to be generated by the project.

The project proposals, carrying the relevant certificate, will be considered by the Government for environmental clearance on a priority basis.

A detailed project report, covering all phases for appraisal under the Environmental Impact Assessment, will be required to be submitted for the projects to be implemented in a phased manner or in modules.

Also, new construction projects, where work has not come up to the plinth level as of today, would require clearance under the EIA notification. In the case of new industrial estates, where the construction work has not started or the expenditure does not exceed 25 per cent of the total sanctioned cost on the day of the issuance of the notification, too, would require environmental clearance.The draft notification seeks objections and suggestions in respect of the proposals made in the Draft Amendment to the Act in writing for consideration of the Central Government. Since the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, does not cover town planning, the Ministry has suggested amendments to the Act so that it could be applicable to urban areas also.

Discharge from untreated sewage in cities, towns and other settlements is the major source of pollution of the rivers, lakes and coastal waters.

The Centre, after taking into account the seriousness of the issue, had constituted an Expert Group in 1982 to draw up procedures for the assessment of new townships and also laying down broad guidelines for such assessment.The Ministry is already implementing the National River Conservation Plan (NRCP) for pollution abatement works in 157 towns along 31 rivers in 18 States. However, the sewerage system and the treatment capacity already provided under NRCP are not adequately maintained by the local bodies, resulting in partial achievement of the objectives. On the other hand, local bodies and development authorities in towns have been approving new projects of various categories without any concern for environment.

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