The environment ministry is proposing to integrate green practices such as solid waste management and utilization of treated wastewater in building projects that need to approach the ministry for environment clearances.

At present, building and construction projects with more than 20,000 sq. m of built-up area require environment clearance from the Union environment ministry.

“The basic idea is to integrate sustainable environment management practices in construction of big buildings rather than imposing such conditions additionally when they seek environment clearance from us. Large projects like townships will, however, still have to come to the environment ministry for clearance," said a senior environment ministry official.

“We are basically proposing that green ideas such as utilization of treated wastewater, fly ash utilization, environmentally sound solid waste management practices and construction waste management practices should be integrated within construction laws and regulations by state governments," the environment ministry official added.

The ministry is even considering an idea that in states where urban bodies integrate these green components in their laws regulating construction of buildings, developers need not come to the ministry for environment clearance. “So, in states where there is successful integration of green component in building regulations, developers may not need to go through the process of environment clearance. But states where such integration does not take place, developers of those regions will need environment clearance from us," the official said.

Last year, the requirement of environment clearance was scrapped for construction projects of schools, colleges and hostels that ensure sustainable environment management; having solid and liquid waste management and rainwater harvesting; and using recycled materials such as fly ash bricks.

“The step could save the industry and developers from seeking multiple clearances. But we should look at all the parameters carefully. Capacity needs to be built for urban local bodies to ensure compliance and enforcement of environmental laws," said Seema Arora, executive director at the Confederation of Indian Industry.

“State building bye-laws may not take into account land use change in such projects. Will it take into account construction over wetlands? One needs to be careful about such concerns," said Kanchi Kohli, an independent researcher working on environmental justice issues.

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