Environment ministry asks state government to first take credible action against existing violations
The Maharashtra government’s reluctance to initiate action against the developers of Lavasa has cost India’s first planned hill city the mandatory environmental clearance. The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), in an order issued on October 13, says environmental clearance cannot be granted to the project till the state government takes “credible action” against it for the violations of environmental laws.
MoEF had stopped the work on the construction site of Lavasa in November last year in the absence of a proper environmental clearance and for violation of environmental laws. The company challenged the ministry’s order in the Bombay High court and applied to the ministry for a post-facto clearance of the project in February this year.
The ministry had set a few pre-conditions for the clearance of the project, including “credible action” by the state government for violation of environmental laws (see 'Pre-conditions for clearance').
The company accepted in a resolution sent to the ministry in July that the violations as averred by the ministry will not be repeated and that the development of Lavasa will be strictly according to the policy for hill stations. It also committed to assign the required fund for CSR and also for the penalty. However, the Maharashtra government said it could not take any action against the company as the matter was sub-judice.
Gulabchandand complains of unfair treatment
On September 13, the chairpersons of Lavasa Corporation Limited (LCL), Ajit Gulabchand, had written to Union minister of state for environment, Jayanti Natarajan, complaining the ministry was discriminating against Lavasa while other similar projects were considered favourably. He pointed out four cases where post-facto clearances were given to the projects that did not have prior environmental clearances of the ministry between April 2011 and June 2011 without any pre-conditions.
The projects included an IT park of L&T Tech Park Pvt Ltd in Kerala, redevelopment of slums by Akshay Satpathya Pvt Ltd in Mumbai, Group housing by AHR Prom and Dev Pvt Ltd in Jalandhar and a hotel of Bird Airport Hotel Pvt Ltd in Maharashtra.
The ministry pointed out that none of these projects involved more than 3 ha of land and the built up area in each of them was even lesser. Lavasa, on the other hand, involved more than 2,000 ha of land and the magnitude of violations and environmental degradation has been much more in its case, the ministry said. Lavasa could not be compared to any other project, the ministry said.