By this judgment, for the first time, the National Green Tribunal brought municipal issues such as parking spaces, recreation grounds and fire safety within the scope of environment jurisdiction.”
Judgement of the National Green Tribunal (Principal Bench, New Delhi) in the matter of Sunil Kumar Chugh & Ors. Vs. Secretary, Environment Department, Govt. of Maharashtra & amp; Ors. dated 03/09/2015
In this landmark order The National Green Tribunal, directed a developer to remit Rs 3 crore towards the environmental relief fund and stopped the construction and sale of a slum rehabilitation project at Antop Hill, Mumbai till the amount was paid and plans amended to include additional parking space.
The order was in an appeal filed by Sunil Chugh against environmental clearances granted to Priyali Builders last March for construction on a 6,500- sq m plot in Sion-Koliwada despite violations to the town planning and environmental laws.
After hearing advocate Aditya Pratap for Chugh, Vikas Malhotra for the environment department, Anand Yagnik for the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) as well as others, the tribunal panel, headed by former Supreme Court judge Swatanter Kumar, held that the builder needs to correct certain lapses in the project.
The panel directed the builder to pay Rs 3 crore to the SRA within a fortnight and Rs 32 lakh towards deficient recreational area to the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board for incurring expenses on environmental and ecological rehabilitation. The tribunal said that the developer must modify the building plans and get them approved for additional parking space in the sale building from the seventh storey upward to make parking space available for both the rehabilitation building and the sale building. It also imposed a Rs 1 lakh cost on the builder.
The land, which was encroached by slums, was reserved for a municipal office and road when the builder submitted a proposal to the SRA to rehabilitate 324 tenements in 1997. Five years later, the builder got the first letter of intent for 14,600 sq m built-up area and was later granted permission for more construction, which the tribunal was told exceeded 20,000 sq m attracting a prior environment clearance.
The builder said the SRA had permitted reduction in the amenity area to 8% and allowed the recreational area above the podium level. But the tribunal observed that the SC held that “right to clean and healthy environment is within the ambit of Article 21 (right to life) and that open land around a building can only be at the ground level, not podium”.
Observing lack of paucity of parking space, the tribunal directed that “three floors shall be made available from seventh floor onwards from the area available for construction of flats…to ensure adequate parking spaces…and ensure that vehicles do not spill out on the streets resulting in congestion and prevent adverse impacts on the environment”.
The judgment written by judicial member U D Salvi said the term built-up area includes both FSI and non-FSI areas. In this case, the built-up area was 30,000 sq m, which included over 12,000 sq m of non-FSI area. This will help end the practice of builders trying to separate the two to evade environment clearance, said a lawyer.
Link to the full decision: