Green Activists, Realtors On Collision Course Over Environmental Clearances

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The green ministry denies it has been made redundant by its urban counterpart.


New Delhi:  An attempt to improve India's ranking on the ease-of-doing business list of countries has put green activists and realtors on collision course. The Urban Development Ministry had told states as early as March, that they can frame and implement their own green rules to give real estate projects quick go ahead. But the Environment Ministry says it still hasn't finalised the rules. So did the Urban Development Ministry jump the gun?

Last week, the National Green Tribunal or NGT slammed the Agra Development Authority for allowing rampant construction, of all places, on the flood plains of river Yamuna. In May, a builder in Bangalore was fined Rs 117 crore for construction in and around a lake. But all this may change as the Urban Development Ministry has delegated state urban bodies to incorporate green nods while approving building projects.

Environmental Lawyer Ritwick Dutta says this sets a very dangerous precedent.

"No building and construction project in India needs to take an environmental clearance anymore. The decision maker will no longer have the right to say no to a project. It's a free for all for the real estate sector. All you need is a standard set of conditions and the conditions are irrespective of whether the project comes up in Rajasthan or Meghalaya," says Mr Dutta.

Also, the green ministry's draft law is only about housing for the poor. Urban development's decision sets no such limits. Yet the green ministry denies it has been made redundant by its urban counterpart. In a written reply to NDTV, the green ministry said, "Public consultation is an integral part and comments received will be carefully considered before reaching any conclusions." It also refuted activists' claims that the NGT would have no say over new laws.

In February, the urban development minister urged his green counterpart to support the changes. It would help the real estate industry and up India's rank in the ease of doing business race. But activists say, a blank cheque for builders could cost green concerns at the time of climate change.


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