NEW DELHI | MUMBAI | BENGALURU: Real estate companies in top metros have said that local government bodies approve building plans only after the project has been granted environment clearance. This follows the Supreme Court's Friday observation that housing projects must get environment clearance before work can start.
In July last year, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had struck down an environment ministry office memo that allowed builders to correct their mistake by applying for environment clearance while construction was on. The tribunal said the ministry's memo altered the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, and the EIA notification of 2006.
However, the NGT order was stayed by an earlier bench, which was headed by erstwhile chief justice of India HL Dattu. On Friday, the top court said it will reexamine its earlier order, backing the NGT's stand that housing projects cannot take off without green clearance.
However, builders in Noida, Gurgaon, Bengaluru and Mumbai said they have always had to obtain environment clearance to get their building plans passed.
In Noida, for instance, once land is allotted by the Noida Authority, the builder applies for environment clearance as it a pre-condition for getting building plans sanctioned by the authority.
Similarly in Gurgaon, land has to be bought from the owners directly and then builders have to apply for a licence for the land. They apply for environment clearance once the licence is secured, according to builders ETspoke with.
"Without the environment clearance, the local government will not pass the building plans for the project," said Manoj Gaur, president, Confederation of Real Estate Developers Association of India (CREDAI), NCR, and managing director of Gaursons India, a real estate developer.
Arjun Puri, director at Gurgaon-based Puri Constructions, said in Haryana there is a clause in the building plan approval process that makes green clearance mandatory.
Environment clearance, however, has been a sore point with builders because it is the biggest contributor to delays in building projects. Gaur said it takes up to 18 months to obtain environment clearance, depending on the city.
"Over the last one year, no builder in Noida has got environment clearance before at least eight months," he said. Srinivasan Gopalan, CEO of Ozone Group in Bengaluru said environment clearance takes at least six months.
"This takes the longest time among all approvals. No projects can be launched without environmental approvals," said Gopalan. "The time line for approvals has to be crunched to make projects more viable for developers and more affordable for customers."
Zaheer Memon, partner at Mumbai-based realty developer Zara Habitats LLP, said most projects in Mumbai must adhere to norms regarding coastal regulatory zones (CRZ), while some suburban locations need to comply with forest-related regulations.
"No building plan can be put forth unless the developer gets approvals from related authorities, like Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA), which is a state-level subordinate of the ministry of environment and forests," he said.
CREDAI recently sent a representation to the environment ministry saying there should be a time-bound, single-window clearance system, as a majority of conditions in the environment clearances that builders get from the government are the same.