Hotels in Mahabaleshwar, Panchgani in trouble
the Bombay High Court (hc) recently directed the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (mpcb) to take punitive action, including closure, against 180 hotels in Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani for non-compliance with prescribed sewage treatment norms. The action is to be taken by June 30, 2005. The order came in response to a writ petition filed by Mumbai-based environment watchdog Bombay Environment Action Group (beag). beag accused the municipal councils of the twin hill stations of releasing untreated sewage into the valleys around the hill stations, especially the Venna Lake, an important drinking water source for Mahabaleshwar.
Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani, along with Matheran, also in the state, are the only three hill stations designated as eco-sensitive by the Union government (see Down To Earth, 'High Altitude Sickness', September 30, 2004). Following the beag petition, the hc had appointed a monitoring committee for the twin hill stations; the order was based on its report.
Vishwas Munde, regional officer, mpcb, Pune division, says the board had issued fresh notices to all hotels in the two hill stations in January 2005 (see Down To Earth, 'Uphill task?', March 31, 2005). "But only 25 hotels responded with concrete proposals. We submitted a report to the hc , following which it issued these fresh directives." He adds: "We will excuse hotels that submit a concrete sewage treatment plan by June 22, 2005. Otherwise, we'll take strict action, including closure."
But F F Wadia, member of the hc monitoring committee says mpcb has "failed to coordinate with Mahabaleshwar municipal council ... Their latest notices to the hotels have also been non-specific." Suryakant Panchal, a local activist, points out that the state government rules clearly say that sewage treatment is the municipal council's responsibility. Rajendra Naidu, president of Mahabaleshwar hotel owners association (small hotels), echoes the demand.
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