The National Green Tribunal has extended the stay on a Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change notification modifying the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) conditions for certain construction projects.

According to the notification dated November 14, 2018, the union government delegated the power to ensure compliance with environmental conditions to local bodies, including municipalities, development authorities and district panchayats, in respect of building or construction projects having built-up area from 20,000 square metres to 50,000 sq. metres.

The notification also provided these local bodies with the power for according building permission and granting occupation or completion certificate with respect to industrial sheds, hospitals and educational institutions (including hostels) having built-up areas of more than 20,000 sq. metres to 1,50,000 sq. metres.

The tribunal was hearing a petition which said the modified EIA regime, where the appraisal of impact assessment was not being done by the State Environment Impact Assessment Authorities (SEIAAs), was against the principles of sustainable development and precautionary principles.

A bench comprising Chairperson Justice A K Goel noted that after issuing notice to the MoEF&CC, the tribunal stayed the notification in December 2018 and further proceedings were deferred as the same issue was being considered in the Delhi High Court.

The bench, also comprising Judicial Members Justice Sudhir Agarwal and Justice Arun Kumar Tyagi besides Expert Member A Senthil Vel, said even after more than three years there was no progress and as the tribunal had to consider the matter expeditiously, it was taken up again.

The bench said no steps were taken by the MoEF&CC either to file a reply or to seek a modification of the stay, and there was no representation from the ministry before the tribunal.

"Thus, there will be no prejudice if such stay continues till any further step is taken in the matter after an expert study and conscious decision as per law," the bench said.

The green panel said the notification was non-sustainable as it could dilute the existing mechanism for impact Assessment by SEIAA. "It is well known that housing projects impact the environment in a big way and unless such impact is appraised and mitigation measures adopted and monitored, the environment will be compromised," the tribunal said.

It said there was inadequate provision for conducting the environmental impact of housing projects on the environment.

"The same (notification) needs to be revisited in light of appropriate expert studies to ensure that effective impact assessment takes place in respect of such projects so as to ensure that the development of any such project is consistent with the precautionary and sustainable development principles," the tribunal said.

It directed a copy of the order be sent to the ministry for compliance.
Cause Title: Shashikant Vithal Kamble v. Union of India & Ors.

With PTI Inputs