In order to boost investments in the real estate sector and ensure timely delivery of projects, the Environment Ministry has made it mandatory to procure the environment clearance within 60 days. The Government has taken the decision to achieve the ambitious goal of converting India into a $5 trillion economy by 2020.

The announcement for the environmental clearance, which serves as a breather to the real estate industry, was made by the Union Minister for Environment and Forests, Prakash Javadekar, at the 15th National Convention of the National Real Estate Development Council (NAREDCO) in New Delhi on August 19.

Scores of real estate projects across the country have suffered delays and non-completion owing to strict laws pertaining to environmental clearance. The average time taken to get the clearance for a project was initially 640 days! But now, the average time period for procuring environmental clearances has been reduced to 108 days.

The procedural delays have now been cut down without necessarily compromising on environment protection. The Government further plans to make minor changes to the laws governing environmental clearances to speed up the completion of real estate projects.

The environmental clearance process comprises of multiple steps, including environmental impact assessment, conduct of public hearings by the respective State pollution control boards, and mandatory adherence to certain terms of references imposed upon the project proponent before going ahead with work.

So far, there had been no cap on the number of conditional terms of references to be included in the environmental clearance process. According to the Union Environment Minister, certain standard conditions, which will not be more than 10 in number, will be imposed upon each proponent. For example, conditions such as water harvesting or recycling will be decided based on the size of the real estate project.

The double-edged approach of the Government in imposing lesser number of terms and conditions, yet ensuring their total implementation will boost the real estate industry on one hand, and ensure protection of the environment on the other hand. Sustainable development in the real estate sector can be cent-percent ensured with these measures.

For years, real estate projects have suffered in terms of adhering to environmental standards because of intervention from both the Central and the State governments. An efficient and fast single-window facility to accord environmental clearances for real estate projects has been long-felt by the industry.

While the Central Government is amending the law in order to facilitate ease of doing business, the States are underway to make the clearance process more transparent, seamless and fast.

The Government’s commitment to boost investments in the real estate sector can be gauged from the implementation of the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act (RERA. In terms of removing bottlenecks in the shape of environmental factors, the Government has also risen up time and again to cater to the needs of the real estate sector.

In May this year, the Government had issued a notification, doing away with the need for environmental impact assessment process for housing projects developed in areas ranging between 20,000-50,000 sq m. Real estate developers developing projects in areas measuring between 20,000-50,000 sq m will now need to submit an affidavit with the local area governing body. The affidavit should necessarily mention that all the parameters pertaining to environmental safety has been ensured in the project. Completion certificate shall be issued to projects only after the local area governing body is satisfied that the real estate developer has indeed adhered to all the norms.

These norms may include rainwater harvesting, plantation, waste management, provision for green energy generation, and water management. Norms pertaining to air and noise pollution will also have to be followed strictly in these projects. The projects which do not require to undergo environmental impact assessments will be out of the ambit of the National Green Tribunal too.

Innovative steps such as provision of environmental clearance by local governing bodies and reduced conditions in cases where environmental impact assessment is necessary are expected to lower the overall cost of the projects. The benefits will be directly passed on to the end-users by way of low cost of housing and commercial units.