Trees at Fort Kochi. Representative image. Photo: Firos nv/Unsplash.
New Delhi: The Builders’ Association of India (BAI) and the Confederation of the Real Estate Developers Association of India (CREDAI) – the two most influential lobby groups in India’s construction sector – have taken completely opposite positions vis-à-vis the Union environment ministry’s controversial draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification 2020, Huffington Post has reported.
The draft EIA notification 2020 is open for public comments until August 11 (today). According to news reports, the ministry has already received over four lakh suggestions. Environment activists have called for its withdrawal because, they argue, various provisions have been inserted to benefit the real estate and corporate sectors at the cost of the environment.
The Huffington Post reported while the BAI wants the new draft notification withdrawn, due to some of the provisions of the draft law as well as the postponement of the ministry’s public consultation process due to the COVID-19 pandemic, CREDAI welcomed the move and called it “transparent” and a step to “promote sustainable development”.
In a two-page letter to environment ministry secretary C.K. Mishra on August 3, BAI president Mu. Moahan wrote:
“We are deeply concerned that this draft notification has been put out in the midst of a national health crisis … Opportunities to understand and discuss the implications of the proposed amendments may be severely hindered due to the present health emergency with restricted public movement, social distancing and challenges to everyday life activities. These restrictions also make it impossible to disseminate information about the notification to communities who deserve to know and influence the notification.”
The BAI, which has centres in 148 locations around the country and a membership of 15,000, also listed eight “salient features” that it feels were “against the interest of the public”. Some of these features include provisions in the draft law to avoid public hearing before granting approval to a project in an environmentally sensitive zone.
Though the report said the BAI president refused to comment on his letter to the ministry, an unnamed office bearer stated, “We are also citizens of India and this letter has been written in larger public interest, as we believe some of the provisions are wrong and need wider public consultation, which is presently not possible due to the coronavirus pandemic.”
He also called the CREDAI’s position “wrong” in the matter.
When asked about the draft law’s purported benefits for the real estate sector, the office bearer said the provisions may be fine for residential projects “but those for industries and mega projects in all sectors are the bone of contention”.
Meanwhile, CREDAI vice-president Shantilal Kataria told Huffington Post, “This notification has come after thorough thought by the central government, particularly the environment department. Easing business is important and we welcome this.” Kataria also claimed it would “bring transparency to the environment clearance process while ensuring protection of the environment” and would “promote sustainable development”.
He also said, “The process of environmental clearance for projects under category 42 must be completed within 30 days of filing the application. The [State Expert Appraisal Committees and State Environment Impact Assessment Authorities] should be working at least 15 working days in a month, if not more, because the number of projects to which [environmental clearance] becomes applicable is far too many and steadily increasing.”
Talking about the controversy around the draft law, union environment minister Prakash Javdekar said on August 10, “This is only a draft, not the final notification. The draft will be finalised after taking into consideration all suggestions and comments received.”