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Essential Guide to Environmental Clearance for Building Projects in India: Insights from the Latest Kerala HC Judgement

In a landmark decision, the Kerala High Court recently annulled the final notification issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) on December 22, 2014. This judgement has significant implications for building and construction projects across India. This blog delves into the judgement, its impact on industries, and provides a comprehensive guide to help businesses navigate the environmental clearance process efficiently.

Understanding the Kerala HC Judgement

On March 6, 2024, the Kerala High Court ruled in favor of the petitioner, "One Earth One Life," an environmental organization. The court found that the final notification issued by MoEFCC significantly deviated from the draft notification dated September 11, 2014, without considering public objections and suggestions. The final notification excluded certain types of buildings, such as industrial sheds, schools, colleges, and hostels, from requiring environmental clearance, which was not the case in the draft notification​.


Implications for Industries

This ruling reinstates the original requirements for environmental clearance as per the draft notification. Here are the key takeaways for industries:

  1. Strict Adherence to Notification Procedures: Industries must ensure that any changes to draft notifications are communicated properly, and all procedural requirements for public objections and suggestions are met.

  2. Revised Environmental Clearance Requirements: With the quashing of the final notification, exemptions provided for certain building types are no longer valid. Projects must reassess their compliance with the original environmental clearance requirements.

  3. Engagement with Regulatory Authorities: It is crucial for businesses to proactively engage with regulatory authorities to stay informed about regulatory changes and ensure compliance with environmental norms​.


Ready Reckoner for Environmental Clearance

To assist industries, we have compiled a ready reckoner summarizing the differences between the draft and final notifications and key steps in the environmental clearance process:

Key Points

  • Draft Notification (September 11, 2014): Required environmental clearance for residential buildings, commercial buildings, hotels, hospitals, hostels, office blocks, and IT parks with built-up areas ≥ 20,000 sq.mtrs and < 1,50,000 sq.mtrs.

  • Final Notification (December 22, 2014): Exempted industrial sheds, schools, colleges, and hostels for educational institutions from requiring environmental clearance.

  • Kerala HC Judgement: Quashed the final notification, reinstating the requirements as per the draft notification.

Table: Comparison of Draft and Final Notifications

Aspect

Draft Notification (Sep 11, 2014)

Final Notification (Dec 22, 2014)

Scope of Projects

Residential, commercial, hotels, hospitals, hostels, office blocks, IT parks

Excludes industrial sheds, schools, colleges, hostels for educational institutions

Built-up Area Requirement

≥ 20,000 sq.mtrs and < 1,50,000 sq.mtrs

Same

Public Objections & Suggestions

Incorporated

Not incorporated

Environmental Clearance Process

Step 1: Online Application for Prior Environmental Clearance

  • Submit the online application via the PARIVESH portal.

  • Required documents: Cover letter, Form-I, prefeasibility report, Environmental Management Plan, proof of land ownership, approved layout plan, topographic sheet.

Step 2: Consideration by the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC)

  • The EAC reviews the application and documents.

  • If satisfied, Terms of Reference (TOR) are issued for further EIA study.

Step 3: Public Consultation

  • Conducted to gather concerns from local affected persons and stakeholders.

  • Ensures that all material concerns are considered in the project design.

Step 4: Preparation of EIA Report

  • Conducted as per the TOR and additional terms, if any.

  • The EIA report is reviewed by the regulatory authority for final clearance.

Conclusion

The Kerala High Court's judgement highlights the importance of transparency and public participation in the regulatory process. For industries, it serves as a reminder to stay vigilant and compliant with environmental regulations. At Viswa EnviroTech Private Limited, we are dedicated to guiding our clients through these regulatory landscapes, ensuring compliance and promoting sustainable development.


For more information on how we can assist your business in obtaining environmental clearances and navigating regulatory changes, contact Viswa EnviroTech Private Limited today or drop your enquiry to jrk@viswaenviro.com


Disclaimer: This blog is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, Viswa EnviroTech Private Limited is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for any actions taken based on the information provided. For legal advice, please consult a qualified attorney.

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