Lavasa may lose special planning authority status

Comptroller and Auditor General had pulled up developer for illegal expansion plans

 
By Ashwin Aghor
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

Lavasa Corporation Limited (LCL), promoter of Lavasa city near Pune, is likely to lose the uninhibited powers it enjoys in drawing up development plans for the hill station. It is learnt that the Maharashtra government has decided to revoke the Special Planning Authority (SPA) status granted to the project at the time of its inception. The move follows strictures passed by the Comptroller and Auditor General against illegal expansion plans for the hill city.

Sources in the chief minister's office reveal that Prithviraj Chavan summoned Ajit Gulabchand, owner of Lavasa, to his office last week and informed him about the decision. The decision is expected to be announced formally in a couple of days. But Gulabchand is learnt to have sought a week’s time before the decision is announced.

Vishwambar Chaudhari of National Alliance of People’s Movement (NAPM) explains why the company chief is pleading for time. “LCL is now trying to get approvals for its development plan in and around Mugaon, a village in the project area. But once the SPA status is revoked, all the decisions and approvals by the authority will come under government scanner, and if any irregularity is found, the development proposals can be cancelled as well,” says Chaudhari. NAPM has filed a petition in the Bombay High Court against the irregularities and violations of environmental laws at Lavasa.
 
The CAG in its report for the year ending on March 31, 2011, had passed strong strictures against Lavasa developers regarding the procedure adopted to permit development of Lavasa city. The report says there was no transparency in the entire process of granting permissions and approvals to Lavasa. “The project aimed at protection of personal benefit rather than general good,” the report says.

The report also pointed out that Lavasa was the first project in the history of the state to get the status of SPA which gave the developers the freedom to change the development proposals at will. “By granting the status of SPA to Lavasa, the government lost all the control over the project, which proved to be a major advantage to the promoters of the hill station,” the CAG report said.

Pointing out illegal expansion plans at the project site, CAG also came down heavily on the state's director of town planning (TP) who is member of the SPA and is expected to monitor the plans and prevent illegalities. “Had the director, TP, been alert and willing to control the illegal development, the promoters would not have been able to violate the laws,” the report says. When contacted, a senior Lavasa official dismissed the matter as rumour.


 

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