The government said the move was to encourage construction activities in the state. However, environmental activists have raised objections.

Kerala allows buildings up to 20000 sq m to be constructed without quarrying permit
news Environment Thursday, June 11, 2020 - 17:36

The Kerala government has exempted building projects of up to 20,000 square metres in size from obtaining a quarrying permit for construction.

The move, the LDF government says, is to provide a fillip to construction activities in the state, which is reportedly slowing down. However, environmental activists say that this could increase unsustainable mining and red earth smuggling in the state. 

Earlier, buildings that are 300 sq m area or more in size would require the builders to obtain a ‘quarrying permit’ to start construction in the state, in order to mine the earth to lay the foundation. However, this limit has now been increased to 20,000 square metres.

The older rules required the permission of neighbours residing in a 50-metre radius from the proposed site. They also stated that builders must furnish revenue documents, a survey map of the neighbouring areas and environmental clearance to get the quarrying permit.

Speaking to TNM, Harish Vasudevan, a Kerala High Court lawyer and environmental activist, said, “Earlier, construction of any project over 300 sq m in the state would require the builder to apply for environment clearance and a quarrying permit for the quanitity of ordinary earth that you will mine. However, in February 2020, the Kerala High Court allowed building projects of 20,000 sq m or below to carry on construction without obtaining a mining permit. This exemption is specifically for laying of foundation for the buildings. The High Court observed that ancillary mining for construction of buildings cannot be seen as a commercial mining activity and hence does not require a mining permit.”

It is based on this High Court order that the state cabinet has now passed a rule exempting building proposals of up to 20,000 sq m from having to obtain a mining permit.

With this exemption, neither an environmental impact clearance nor a mining permit is required for construction activity in 20,000 sq m area or below.

Following this decision, environmental activists in the state have raised objections, stating that the exemption would not only lead to unsustainable construction, but would increase instances of unscientific mining and red earth smuggling in the state. 

“Any building can be constructed in any part of the state barring forests and wetlands if you secure a building permit. The question of analysing the impact of such a construction on adjacent buildings or surrounding ecology does not come into the picture. The builder can also alter the state’s landscape by razing hillocks in order to lay foundations, without facing any repercussions. It can also increase instances of ordinary earth smuggling and unlawful mining as it is now easier to get a building permit and mine, rather than get a mining permit,” Harish added.

Following the decision, One Earth One Life, a Kannur based NGO has decided to challenge the cabinet's decision by moving the Kerala High Court. 

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