Permission to Construct Multistoreyed Flats on Small Land Holdings to Kill Cities

Published on 15/01/2019

By Dr. Yashpal Singh


The Wealthy Waste School India


Permission to Construct Multistoreyed Flats on Small Land Holdings to Kill Cities

The Lucknow Development Authority has decided to reduce land limits for building flats from 2000 sq. metres to 300 square meters and that now the Development Authority will allow construction of ground Floor plus three floors on a minimum 300 sq.mts plot and one storey can be added for every additional 100 sq. mts. area up to a maximum of 24 on a 2000 sq .mts. plot. All these decisions appear to have been taken without any environmental impact assessment or regulatory clearances. It is only appropriate that the  MoEF and CC and the Department of Urban Development in the State of U.P. may like to examine and issue necessary directions so that the scheme is implemented only if sustainable and compliant to law.

It needs to be appreciated that the Urban infrastructure is already reeling from the impacts of high population densities and any further increments would, without any doubt, create immense pressures on urban infrastructure services like water and power supply, road transport, parking and sewage and Municipal waste disposal coupled with a higher potential for air and water pollution in cities where the ambient air and water quality is already beyond the prescribed standards.

Building and construction Projects below 20000 sq. mts of built up area are exempt from the Environmental clearance process as spelt out in the EIA notification of 2006 and therefore decisions with regards to built up area below 20000 sq. mts or arbitrary increases in FAR may not necessarily be decisions taken after evaluating the environmental impacts or the adequacy of the urban infrastructure to sustain the development. There may be a need to address to this issue. The cumulative impacts may be very high.

Section 25 of the Water (Prevention and Control of the Pollution) Act 1974  also makes a provision for a prior consent before implementing any scheme or extending any scheme which is likely to discharge sewage effluents. The decision to allow additional storey’s or allow increases in FAR would necessarily involve an increase in population resulting in additional sewage generation and would therefore invite the provision of Section 25 of the Act which the Development Authorities must respect and take prior consents.

The  decision is also likely to cause an increase in the solid waste generated. It is within the  duty of the urban local authority to seek an authorization under the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 from the State Pollution Control Board for the projected increase in urban solid waste generation and consequent disposal.

Para 3.3.3(B) of the Environment Protection Rules, 1986 clearly states that the combined effect of emission or discharge of environmental pollutants in an area, from industries, operations, processes, automobiles and domestic sources, shall not be permitted to exceed relevant concentration in ambient air as prescribed  by the MoEF. It is now conclusively established that air quality in most urban centers including Lucknow city is exceeding the prescribed standards and is adversely impacting the health indicators. It also needs to be understood that further increments in population densities would result in higher fuel requirements, more combustion, more vehicular pollutants and consequently further deterioration in air quality which is neither desirable from the view of public health nor is legally permitted as above.

While the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, in its wisdom, has chosen to exempt Building and construction projects with a built up area below 20000 sq. feet from the applicability of the EIA notification of 2006, yet it has made a provision where formulation of Master Plans or any changes in the Master Plans have to seek an environmental clearance as ‘Area Development Projects’ under clause 8 (b) of the notification. There is a need to examine as to how many ‘Master Plans’ have a valid EIA clearance. It is the Master Plan which, duly endorsed by the Environment Clearance, would ideally prescribe the carrying capacity of different areas in terms of allowable project/activity mixes, population densities, vehicular densities, power, water, sewage and solid waste handling facilities. Once the Master Plan or any subsequent modification is endorsed through the EIA clearance process, policy decisions projects and activities which comply with the conditions of environmental clearance should be allowed. Any changes or additions may need a fresh E.C. This would also include proposals like increasing FAR, change in land use (specially Residential to Commercial) or increase in built up areas.

It is important for the Development Authorities to examine  these issues before taking decisions

In this connection, I have felt that The MoEF and CC, Government of India, the Department of Urban Development in the State of U.P. , the U.P. Pollution Control Board and the Lucknow Development Authority may like to examine if the decisions taken by the Lucknow Development have been taken after a careful environmental impact assessment and  a sustainability study on the long term water availability and the capability of the existing road network to sustain the traffic due to the additions in  built up area, adequacy of the sewage system to cater to added effluents, the capacity of the Municipal Solid Waste handling system to sustain the added solid wastes, the parking arrangements and most importantly the capability of the decision to ensure that it would not further deteriorate the ambient air quality. It also needs to be examined if the decision has a prior consent of the Pollution Control Board u/s 25 of the Water Act and an Authorisation under the Solid Waste Rules of 2016. The MoEF and CC and the Department of Urban Development in the State of U.P. may  need  to issue necessary directions after scrutiny, ensuring that the scheme is implemented only if sustainable and compliant to law.

There is also a need for the The MoEF and CC to identify the number of Master Plans formulated in the country which have a valid environmental clearance and thereafter seek a certified compliance report from the Development Authorities.

The number of Master Plans formulated without an adequate environmental clearance by Development agencies also needs to beexamined country wide and suitable action taken  for default. The MoEF and CC may be required to  issue necessary directions to the State Urban Development Departments to ensure that no activity should be undertaken in violation of the EIA notification of 2006 and that all Development Authorities should seek to avail of Environmental Clearance at the stage of formulation of the Master Plan or change in any project or activity within the areas covered by the master plan.

The matter regarding Consents under the Water And Air Acts and the various rules under the E.P.Act of 1986 is also important . Responsibilities need to be fixed and The MoEF and CC and the State Pollution Control Boards may like to identify the local bodies which are discharging effluents without a consent from the Pollution Control Board or disposing Municipal Solid Wastes and other wastes without a valid authorization.  Suitable action, needs to be taken in the matter. For more than 40 years, the Boards have served mostly as Industrial Pollution Control Boards. It is high time that we realize the significance of domestic waste waters, vehicular pollution, refuge burning, dust pollution and crop burning as major contributors and graduate into being ‘Pollution Control Boards’.

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