In order to give a boost to investments in the real estate sector and ensure timely delivery of projects to customers, the Union Environment Ministry has proposed to set the mandatory period of procuring an environment clearance within a flat period of 60 days as against 108 days currently. The decision has been taken by the NDA 2.0 government in order to achieve the ambitious goal of converting India into a $5-trillion economy by the year 2020.
The announcement, which serves as a great breather to the real estate sector, was made by Union minister for environment and forests Prakash Javadekar at the 15th national convention of the National Real Estate Development Council (NAREDCO) in New Delhi on August 19.
Scores of real estate projects across the country have suffered delays, and in certain cases non-completion too, owing to strict laws pertaining to environmental clearance. The environment control regime had been stricter before NDA 1.0 came to power in 2014 with average time taken to get a clearance for any particular project being 640 days!
After coming to power, this average time period for procuring environmental clearances had been brought down to 108 days by the NDA 1.0 government.
It indeed goes to the credit of the government that procedural delays have been cut down without necessarily compromising on protection of the environment. The government further plans to make minor changes to the laws governing environmental clearances in order to speed up completion of real estate projects.
The environmental clearance process comprises steps including environment impact assessment, conduct of public hearings by the respective state pollution control boards and mandatory adherence to certain terms of references imposed upon the project proponent before going ahead with work.
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So far, there had been no cap on the number of conditional terms of references to be included in the environmental clearance. According to the union environment minister, certain standard conditions-that will be no more than 10 in number-will be imposed upon each proponent. For example, conditions like water harvesting or recycling will be decided on the basis of the size of the real estate project.
The double-edged approach of the Union government in imposing lesser number of terms and conditions but ensuring their total implementation will boost the real estate industry on the one hand and ensure protection of the environment on the other hand. Sustainable development in the real estate sector can possibly be cent-percent ensured with this set of measures.
For years, real estate projects have suffered in terms of adhering to environmental standards because of intervention of both the Central and state governments. Till now, there has been ground for real estate project proponents in getting environmental clearances from the Central and state governments through a common platform.
An efficient and fast single-window facility to accord environmental clearances for real estate projects has been long felt by the industry.
While the Central government is amending the law in order to enable real estate developers in the ease of doing business, talks are simultaneously underway with individual states across the country to make the clearance process more transparent, seamless and fast.
The Central government's commitment to boost investments in the real estate sector can be gauged from the implementation of the RERA Act during NDA 1.0. In terms of removing bottlenecks in the shape of environmental factors, the Central government has also risen up time and again to the needs of the real estate sector.
In May this year, the Central government had issued a notification doing away with the need for environment impact assessment process for housing projects developed in areas ranging between 20,000 and 50,000 square metre.
Following this notification, real estate developers building projects in areas measuring between 20,000 and 50,000 sqm will need to submit an affidavit with the local area governing body pledging that all parameters pertaining to environmental safety will be ensured in their project. Completion certificate shall be issued to projects like this only after the local area governing body is satisfied that the real estate developer has indeed adhered to all the norms.
These norms may include rainwater harvesting, plantation, waste management, provision for green energy generation and water management. Norms pertaining to air and noise pollution will also have to be followed strictly in these projects. These projects which do not require to undergo environmental impact assessments will be out of the ambit of the National Green Tribunal too.
Innovative steps like provision of environmental clearance by local governing bodies and reduction in the number of terms and conditions where environment impact assessment is necessary are expected to lower overall cost of the projects. The benefits will be directly passed on to end users by way of low cost of housing and commercial units. A boost for the real estate sector is in the offing with such innovative measures pertaining to sustainable development.
(By Ashish Bhutani, CEO, Bhutani Group)