It seems like very soon infrastructure may no longer be suable in India’s National Green Tribunals (NGT).
The Indian states and union issue certain environmental clearances required for any construction project. The two seats of power issue clearances to make sure every building complies with construction norms of the environmental laws. However recently in the name of “ease of doing business”, the union might exempt construction from their need of environmental clearances.
Conversation between the union and state is on, to whether this system would work. If this is accepted, there would be pre-outlined environmental responsibilities that by -laws will mention for the construction industry, by the state. As long as the state by laws are complied, the union no longer plays a role in environmental clearances for constructions. It reduces the delay for builders and the number of permissions required. It also reduces the opportunities given to the union, to throw their weight around in the name of a clearance – something that the state should be fully responsible for now.
This plan sounds great for builders, but not too much for environmentalists since there are two concerns; state responsibility and National Green Tribunal (NGT). State responsibility would mean that every aspect covered by the union, would now fall upon the state. The clearances and checks undertaken by the union, now need to be included in the pre-specified rules outlined by the state.
The more precarious situation is with the NGT. Legal experts say that if this law is passed, then construction projects could not be taken to the NGT. Construction industries being exempted from the union environmental clearances (as long as they follow they state by-laws), exempts them from NGT jurisdiction as well.
For example, the NGT passed a landmark judgement this May. Where a buffer zone for constructions near water bodies was passed. The judgment stated that no construction must be undertaken in 75 metres of a lake/wetland, as opposed to 30 metres which was the case earlier.
This may no longer be valid for contradictions, if they are alienated from the union’s responsibility. I’m sure there is a greater independence that the state receives with such an option. But there has to be a way to balance ‘ease of doing business’ and environmental protection.