Fresh EC must on expansion below upper limit: SC

The court said EIA Notification by the Ministry of Environment and Forest was adopted on September 14, 2006 with the intention of restricting new projects and the expansion of new projects until their environmental impact could be evaluated and understood.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday said a residential project having an environment clearance would require a fresh nod for any increase in the size, even though such an expansion was within the prescribed upper limit of the Environment Impact Assessment notification of 2006.

The top court said it cannot interpret the EIA notification in such a manner so as to permit a project proponent to increase the construction area of a project, incrementally or otherwise, without any oversight from the Expert Appraisal Committee.

“Crucially, any form of expansion necessarily puts a strain on the local environment and infrastructure and needs to be carefully evaluated in a holistic manner,” a bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and Ajay Rastogi said.

The court said EIA Notification by the Ministry of Environment and Forest was adopted on September 14, 2006 with the intention of restricting new projects and the expansion of new projects until their environmental impact could be evaluated and understood. It cannot be disputed that as the size of the project increases, so does the magnitude of the project's environmental impact.

According to the notification, the lower limit is a built-up area of 20,000 sq mt and the upper limit is 1,50,000 square metres.

The top court upheld the National Green Tribunal's direction of February 11, 2019 to a real estate company, Keystone Realtors Pvt Ltd for depositing Rs one crore as fine with the Central Pollution Control Board for expanding its residential project 'Oriana Residential Project' in Mumbai's Bandra without complying to statutory regulations.

By completing the construction, the company denied the appraisal authorities an opportunity to evaluate the environmental impact and suggest methods to mitigate any environmental damage.

It directed that the five-member experts' committee continue its evaluation of the project so as to bring its environmental impact as close as possible to that contemplated in the Environment Clearance of May 2, 2013 and also suggest the compensatory exaction to be imposed on the appellant.

The total construction area of the project was expanded from 8,720.32 sq mt to 32,395.17 sq mt for which the clearance was taken. The area was further increased by 8,085.71 sq mt, taking the total construction to 40,480.88 sq mt. The court rejected the plea by the company that the expansion was just marginal and would not have an adverse impact on the environment.

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