Ministry of Environement & Forest
New Delhi: The Union environment ministry is set to ease clearance norms for townships and building and construction projects in or close to wildlife sanctuaries, national parks and eco-sensitive zones.
Soon, for projects such as residential and commercial buildings, townships, hotels, hospitals and information technology parks, one will have to approach only the state government concerned; an environmental clearance from the Centre under the Environment Protection Act, 1986, won't be required.
According to a ministry notification dated September 11, any such project falling inside or within 10 km of a protected area under the Wildlife Protection Act, a critically polluted area, a notified eco-sensitive area or inter-state and international boundaries will need an environment clearance from the state environment impact assessment authority alone. The authority's decision is based on the recommendations of the state expert appraisal committee.
Currently, projects in or close to national parks or wildlife sanctuaries have to be appraised by an expert appraisal committee of the Union environment ministry. Once this panel gives its recommendations, the Centre decides on granting an environmental clearance to the project. This increases the time taken to process such applications.
Industry had, for long, complained of the long and tedious process of seeking environment clearances for such projects. Promoters of housing project have also said often, these projects come under the ambit of municipal authorities and, therefore, their master plans should not be assessed again by the Centre. However, environmentalists have argued as these master plans do not assess carrying capacities, a more detailed review is essential.
The environment ministry's forest advisory committee is slated to discuss the guidelines for construction of residential buildings in private forest land, under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980. This is in line with a series of steps taken by the National Democratic Alliance government to relax norms for industry. Recently, the Centre had eased clearance rules for projects in the mining, roads, power and irrigation sectors. It had also set up a high-level committee to review various environmental Acts, including the Environment (Protection) Act, the Forest (Conservation) Act and the Wildlife (Protection) Act. The committee has been asked to suggest changes to these Acts within two months.