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Society for Protection of Environment & Biodiversity v. Union of India

Jurisdiction: National Green Tribunal of India

Side A: Society for Protection of Environment & Biodiversity (Ngo)

Side B: Union of India (Government)

Core objectives: Quashing those parts of EIA regulation that exempt construction sector from environmental clearance.

In 2016, the applicant, an environmental society, filed a case before the NGT raising objections to the 2016 draft notification that exempts building and construction projects from the environmental clearance requirement. According to the applicant, the unregulated building and construction activities would cause irreversible damage to the environment, thereby having serious repercussions on climate change. This exemption is also in derogation of India’s international commitments to the Rio Declaration 1992 and Paris Agreement 2015, especially when read in the light of the precautionary principle. The respondent, Ministry of Environment and Forests, contended that the draft notification is a policy decision taken by the Government of India to provide affordable housing to the weaker section of the society under the ‘Housing for All by 2022’ scheme. The NGT, exercising its jurisdiction, upheld the applicant’s contention. The 2016 draft notification considerably dilutes the regime of environmental clearance in building and construction activities, thereby, leading to severe environmental impacts. The principle of non-regression, an accepted norm in international environmental law, mandates that environmental law should not be modified to the detriment of environmental protection.

Accordingly, the NGT declared illegal those parts of a government draft notification that exempted specific building and construction projects from the environmental clearance requirement. Domestically, the construction sector emits 22% of India’s total annual carbon-dioxide emission and has a significant energy footprint. In the name of ‘ease of doing responsible business’, the government ignored environmental impacts that have a direct bearing on environmental protection, climate change and sustainable development. Environmental clearances, as a part of the precautionary approach, require the drafting of an EIA report.

The EIA report evaluates carbon emissions associated with the construction project, its adverse impact on the environment, and best practice strategies to reduce these emissions. This helps in achieving the ambitious targets and is directly linked to the climate change and SDGs.

Case documents

from the Grantham Research Institute
from the Grantham Research Institute
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