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Environment Ministry To Soon Fix Green Norms For SEZs, Realty Sector, Roads  

15 April 2013

New Delhi: The environment ministry is likely to decide on a second set of key changes in green norms meant for SEZs, roads and the real estate sector, especially multi-storey buildings, next week. The committee it had formed on easing green regulations for clearances impacting these specific industries and sectors has submitted its report and the ministry is likely to take a view on it in the coming days.

The coming week is also likely to see some key green issues afflicting the mining industry being resolved - one way or the other - with the Supreme Court expected to decide the fate of Vedanta's bauxite mining in Odisha and the Karnataka iron ore mining case. The ministry is also expected to tackle the Goa iron ore mining cases.

The environment ministry had set up a committee on easing of norms for the real estate sector, roads and SEZs after strong pressure from industry lobbies as well as pressure from within the government to have a more "industry-friendly" green regime.

The committee had been asked to review the requirement of environmental clearance for highway expansion projects up to the right of way of 60 meters and length of 200 km and the need for linking width of roads and distance from fire stations with the height of multi-storey buildings. The panel was also tasked with assessing if these projects required a clearance from the central government at all or if they could take a nod from state authorities.

Changes in the norms for multi-storey buildings and the Goa mining cases are seen as important for those holding stakes in Maharashtra while the Karnataka mining case is bound to impact political as well as financial health of mining barons in the state which is slated for assembly elections in May.

The Vedanta case is keenly watched too with the UPA government at first coming down hard on the mining giant in Odisha for violating tribal rights under its flagship Forest Rights Act and other green laws but making a partial turnaround in the case before the Supreme Court. In a flip-flop, the government had recently cited religious reasons rather than specific clauses of the Forest Rights Act while defending its decision to block Vedanta's mining in Odisha.