In an attempt to fast track projects in the construction sector, the Union government has recently scrapped the arbitrary echo clearances imposed by the previous government. In a recent notification the environment ministry has exempted the building of large industrial projects up to a 150,000 sq mtrs from seeking prior environmental clearances, said official sources claiming that the new norms would help businesses build larger factories that enjoy economies of scale much faster. The green norm had made tough to make or set up new plant at over 5 acres of land and had forced some investors to explore alternate production hubs with lesser red tape as their return on investments shrinks with every month of delay. The ministry had initially proposed that such a prior environmental clearance would only be required for projects covering over 20,000 square metres that involve residential or commercial buildings, hotels, hospitals and information technology or software development units and parks.
With easier norms in place, the government has opted to go for a negative list of projects in the final notification stating that advance environmental clearances are not required for industrial sheds, schools, colleges and hostel for educational institutions. At the same time, the ministry said such new buildings must ensure environment management by putting in place systems for rainwater harvesting, solid and liquid waste management. The new norms also suggest that investors 'may use recycled materials such as fly ash bricks' for building new factories. It may be recalled that the ministry in the previous UPA government had held that the building a factory was tantamount to undertaking a construction project and stipulated a prior environment clearance for any such industrial building with a built-up area of over 20,000 square metres and this scuttled several green field and brown field investment plans of large manufacturing players, including MNC auto makers as securing such a clearance takes about two years.