Observing that construction and demolition activities have been banned for almost 29 days following curbs under stage III of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) in Delhi NCR, resulting in losses of hundreds of crores and delay in timely possession to homebuyers, the Confederation of Real Estate Developers Association of India -NCR chapter has urged union minister of environment, forest and climate change Bhupender Yadav to consider RERA-registered projects as ‘public interest projects.’
The real estate developers submitted a memorandum to the minister highlighting the impact of the ban. They said that normal work that does not cause air pollution should be permitted to protect the interest of labourers and homebuyers.
It also brought to the minister’s notice that the ban on construction activities due to pollution is not recognised by RERA, development authorities, or the town planning department due to which realty firms do not get the 'time extension' benefit against 'time-loss' due to the delay in construction.
Delayed possession to homebuyers also attracts a 'delay penalty' at the time of possession, it said in a letter presented to the minister on January 10.
Credai-NCR said that “due to increase in pollution levels, GRAP-III gets implemented which causes immense loss to the real estate industry and even non-polluting sites are forced to stop work. This year construction and demolition activities have already been banned four times,” said the letter written by Manoj Gaur, president, Credai-NCR.
It said that construction activity once stopped takes more than 15 to 30 days to resume full-fledged operations. Keeping that in mind construction activity has been banned in NCR for almost 2.5 months i.e. since October 29, 2022, said the letter.
Credai-NCR said that the ban has a direct impact on labourers working on construction sites. “.. they experience unemployment due to frequent ban of construction in Delhi NCR as they have to return to their respective states / home-town which apart from unemployment, delays the possession of flat to homebuyers.”
Sales of vendors, and ancillary industries that are selling construction materials i.e. steel, paint, plywood, cement also get impacted. This has a multiplier effect as it also leads to loss of GST to the government, Credai-NCR said.
It suggested that activities such as bar-binding, shuttering, re-enforcement brickwork, electrical, interior work, lift installation, plumbing, fire-fighting services, POP, welding, iron cutting, and laying of iron rods for slab etc which do not cause pollution should be permitted.
"Practically, all the activities except demolition, excavation, dry stone cutting, etc do not cause any pollution and even if they cause a little bit then that is within 5 to 10 metres i.e. inside the construction site itself, and does not pollute the entire city. Hence, these activities shall be allowed in any case," Gaur said in the letter.
The association suggested that the activities which cause pollution should be allowed periodically, from February to November.
On January 6, the Centre's air quality panel had directed the implementation of curbs under stage III of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) in Delhi-NCR, including a ban on non-essential construction and demolition work following a sudden spike in air pollution on account of unfavourable weather conditions. Curbs under Stage III include a ban on non-essential construction and demolition, closure of stone crushers and mining activities in Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR).
“There is no doubt that pollution has become a big challenge, especially in the National Capital Region. However, ad hoc blanket ban on all construction activities has its own problems and impact. Not only does it delay the project, it also adds to the cost of construction,” said Lalit Aggarwal, co-founder and vice-chairman, Signature Global, who also attended the meeting with the minister.
Given that most projects have a completion deadline as per RERA, even more for projects in the affordable housing segment where there is a statutory timeline of four years to complete the project, such a ban every year cumulatively delays projects, he said.“We hope the government will provide some flexibility either in the RERA deadlines or allow those activities which do not create pollution like painting, plumbing, wiring etc,” he added.