To get around MoEF norms, Kerala redefines 'high-rise'
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Kerala and some other states have strongly opposed the union environment ministry's 'Guideline for High Rise Buildings' brought in through a February 7 notification on the recommendation of its Expert Appraisal Committee on Building/Construction, Infrastructure and CRZ Projects.
These guidelines link the height of buildings with the width of roads on which they are to be located, and also the distance to fire stations so that fire tenders can reach swiftly in the event of an emergency.
For instance, if a proposed building is between 15 m and 30 m tall, it should be located along a road that is at least 15 metres wide. Moreover, the building should have a fire station located within a 10-km radius, the guidelines say.
Land-starved Kerala had been expressing serious concerns about the guidelines. It found a way out by amending its building rules to boost real estate growth in the state, Kerala government sources said.
While a building with four floors or 15 m tall was earlier termed a high-rise building in Kerala, after the amendment a high-rise will have to be 16 m tall with as many floors as can be built. Since a 15 m building in Kerala is no longer a high-rise, the MoEF's guidelines for 'high-rise' buildings will not be applicable to them.
"The environmental clearance issue is of serious concern for the state as it has major implications for the real estate development in land scarce Kerala. Accordingly, this was factored in and some aspects have been taken care of through the new building rules that have been passed by the state legislature now," a senior state government official said.
Maharashtra has also objected to the new high-rise clearance norms and sources said more than 100 such building projects in the state are awaiting environment approval. The Maharashtra Chambers of Housing Industries had also filed a petition before the state high court on the high-rise guidelines.
The developments have forced the MoEF to revisit the guidelines and a committee has been constituted under Planning Commission member Dr K Kasturirangan to review the provisions of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification 2006 for grant of environmental clearance for various building, road and SEZ projects.
This committee is not only reviewing the prescribed co-relation of height of buildings with the width of roads and distance from fire station but also highway related issues. It will review the requirement of environmental clearance for highway expansion projects up to right of way of 60 m and length of 200 km.
The panel will also review the requirement of environmental clearance for building and real estate projects to avoid duplication considering that such projects will be covered by local civic authorities and under the provision of the relevant master plan, building control regulations and safety guidelines. The categorization of roads, SEZs and building as A, B, B1 and B2 will also be revisited.