There are two committees in Maharashtra — the State Expert Appraisal Committee-1 (SEAC-1) and State Expert Appraisal Committee-2 (SEAC-2) — that appraise projects for environment clearance. The SEAC-1 looks at projects from all over the state, excluding the Mumbai metropolitan region, while the latter assesses projects from within the Mumbai metropolitan region. These committees then recommend the projects, for either approval or rejection, to the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA). The SEAC-1 and SEIAA were dissolved in July as some members resigned after a fallout over certain issues.
“It is true that pendency of projects has increased because of dissolution of the two bodies. The MoEF is authorised to reconstitute the panels on the state government’s recommendations. The state government has sent its recommendations. It will take about two months for the bodies to be reconstituted,” said R A Rajeev, principal secretary, state environment department.
Rajeev said six of the eight members in SEAC-1 and SEIAA chairman had resigned. He said the other two members of SEAC-1 will remain in the panel. “For the 3-member SEIAA, we have recommended a new chairman,” he added.
According to records maintained by the environment department, a total of 817 projects from across Maharashtra, excluding Mumbai, were awaiting clearance as on August 31. About 150 cases have been cleared by the SEAC but are waiting to be assessed by the SEIAA.
Among the projects which are stuck are: an IT park at Pune’s Hinjewadi by Cognizant Technology Solutions India Pvt Ltd worth Rs 1,040 crore, Posco Maharashtra Steel Pvt Ltd’s cold rolled mill in the MIDC belt at Bhagad worth Rs 949.58 crore, a medical college project in Pune by Symbiosis Society worth Rs 537 crore.
Even projects within the Mumbai metropolitan region have been affected. Although the SEAC-2 is assessing and clearing proposals, the SEIAA has to give final approval. Some such projects include the Rs 630-crore revamp of Sir JJ Hospital, a residential project by Kalpataru Real Estate at Parel costing Rs 472.86 crore, and an IT park at Airoli by IGate Global Solutions costing Rs 375 crore.
“Collectively, the investment in all the real estate projects pending clearance is above Rs 1,25,000 crore. This is also affecting direct and indirect employment of about one lakh people. The state is anyway suffering slow growth and this is further affecting the industry,” said Lalit Kumar Jain, president of the Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Associations of India.
Jain said the setting up of panels is not the only problem. “Even otherwise, there are projects pending for as long as two years. Once the committees are formed, they should sit on a daily basis and clear the backlog. Many times, they send the cases back for compliance. Instead, those measures should be listed as conditions and an approval should be given,” he said.