August 07, 2019

Environmental Clearance under Section 16 of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010

[ by Legal Era News Network ]


Environmentalist Santosh Daundkar (“the Appellant”) preferred an appeal before the National Green Tribunal (NGT) under Section 16 of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 assailing the Environmental Clearance dated 25-04-2014 issued by the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA), Maharashtra for the proposed ‘Slum Rehabilitation Scheme of Village Malad (E), Mumbai in favour of M/s. Omkar Realtors and Developers Pvt. Ltd. (“the Developer”).

The Developer was appointed by 3 Societies in respect of implementation of Slum Rehabilitation Scheme in Malad (East). As per the Letter of Intent (LoI), it the Developer was required to provide rehabilitation free of cost to eligible slum dwellers. After issuance of the initial LoI dated 05-07-2008, 3 more plots were acquired by the Developer. With the final LoI, a total of 11319 slum dwellers had to be rehabilitated owing to the inclusion of two more Slum Rehabilitation Societies. The Developer made an application before the SEIAA for revised environmental clearance (EC) to the revised plans

The Appellant contended that the Developer did not seek environmental clearance as required under the Environment Impact Assessment Notification of 2006 (EIA Notification, 2006). He further alleged that inter alia clearance was not obtained from the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), despite the fact that the project fell within the Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ) of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park.

The further allegations were that recreation ground was provided at the podium level instead of in the ground level which was in violation of the order of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the matter of Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai vs M/S Kohinoor Mills. Further it was alleged by the Appellant that there was no place left for maintaining green area around the periphery.

The Appellant alleged that the Developer had initially obtained an Environmental Clearance (EC) after which there was a fundamental change in the entire planning layout of the project which required a fresh EC, but was not sought.

The Secretary Environment, Government of Maharashtra, SEAC-II and SEIAA (“collectively the Respondents”) filed a joint affidavit in reply to the appeal denying all material allegations contained in the appeal.

It was contended by the Respondents that the Maharashtra Government has framed guidelines for declaration of ESZ around National Park and Wild life sanctuary and according to the demarcation, the project was far from the ESZ and, therefore, no clearance was necessary from the NBWL.

Further the Respondents urged that the Government of Maharashtra have framed the guidelines for declaration of the ESZ around National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries, and therefore the maintenance of 10 km radius as ESZ did not apply. According to the guidelines of the Government of Maharashtra, the project did not fall within the ESZ.

The question for determination before the NGT, Principal Bench New Delhi was whether the project was compliant of the EIA Notification in its letter and spirit.

The Tribunal held that the scheme envisaged slum rehabilitation on the land to grant free houses to the slum-dwellers. Records revealed that the SEIAA had taken up the proposal for consideration based on the draft Terms of Reference (ToR) submitted by the project proponent and all issues related to environment, including air, water, land, soil, ecology and biodiversity and social aspects were discussed.

The Tribunal founded that the concern raised by the Appellant was not well founded. The contention that a prior valid EC was not obtained was rejected. The contention by the Appellant that the approval of the Standing Committee of the NBWL having not been obtained in view of the proximity of the project to the Sanjay Gandhi National Park did not bear any substance in view of the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) Notification dated 05.12.2016 notifying the Eco-Sensitive Zone of the National Park declaring an area to an extent of 100 metres to 4 kilometres from the boundary of Sanjay Gandhi National Park as the ECZ.

The Tribunal held that there were adequate safeguards prescribed for ensuring that there was no environmental damage.

The appeal was disposed with the above mentioned observations and findings.

Full View Judgement

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