By Fazalahmed B. Khan
Ex-Deputy Secretary, Urban Development Department, Govt. of Maharashtra.
Accommodation Times Bureau
One of the acute problems facing urbanization and affecting the lives of millions of poor is the
lack of affordable housing in urban areas. Land being scarce with exorbitant prices make the
price of house beyond the reach of a large section of the society. The weaker sections of the
society are at advantage, for which slums have proliferated across the cities. According to
Census 2011, 17.4% of urban population lives in slums. Two recent policy developments show a
ray of hope for improvement in real estate sector as regards the much desired affordable
housing. The national policy for ‘Housing for All by 2022’ (Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana) is an
attempt to address the issue in a time bound manner. Another policy that supplements this
programme is the initiative of “Ease of Doing Business’ of the World Bank and accepted by the
Government and its agencies.
Environmental clearance: Obtaining various clearances for building projects including the
environmental clearance has all along been a tardy process. Considering the mission mode of
the housing scheme, the Environment, Forests and Climate Change Ministry came out with a
notification [S.O. No. 3999(E)] dated 9 December, 2016 as a step towards decentralization,
delegation of powers and enhancing the Ease of Doing Responsible Business. The process of
environmental clearances has been simplified according to the size of the project, as shown
1. Category I (Project with size of 5000 sq.m to less than 20,000 sq.m built up area): The
housing projects of this size are permitted to give a self-declaration of fulfillment of
environmental conditions. After the completion of the project, the Qualified Building
Environment Auditors will audit for compliance. In case of not meeting the standards,
the local authority will take action. These auditors are empanelled by the Ministry. The
developers will have to exercise self-discipline to avoid any problem after the
2. Category II (Projects with size of 20,000 sq.m to less than 1, 50,000 sq.m built up area):
The condition of prior clearance from the State Environment Impact Assessment
Authority (SEIAA) is removed for the township projects of this size, but the local
authority will process simultaneous building permission and environmental clearance.
By this relaxation, environmental clearance is made in-built with building permission.
3. Category III (Projects of size of 1,50,000 sq.m to less than 3,00,000 sq.m built up area):
Township Projects coming in this size will continue to have prior environmental
clearance from the SEIAA .
4. Category IV (Projects of size of more than 3,00,000 sq.m built up area): They will have to
continue to obtain clearance from the Central Government.
Environment Cell : The local authorities will have to set up an Environment Cell with
independent sectoral experience. Considering the near saturation in cities, a good number
of projects fall under category (i) and (ii) and they will benefit from this relaxation most.
State Governments to act expeditiously: These are the statutory and policy changes. In
pursuance of these, the building by-laws will have to be amended, which requires an
expeditious action by the state governments and the local authority.