The state government has cleared a Rs. 2,000-crore hill city project spread across seven villages in the Mulshi taluka of Pune district, not very far from where Lavasa hill city stands.
The clearance comes barely two months after a Centre-appointed green panel raised concerns over the project, saying the area in which the hill city is to come up “is the last patch of biodiversity corridor between northern and southern eco-sensitive Western Ghats”.
The hill station, being developed by Maharashtra Valley View Pvt Ltd, falls within a 10-km radius of a major portion of the Pawna and Mulshi dams and the entire Saltar dam. It is also within a 10-km radius of three reserve forests, Salte, Barpe and Budhru.
At the time of granting approval to the proposal and delineating seven villages in the 5,914-acre area allotted for the project as a ‘hill station’, the state said the final nod was subject to clearance from the environment panel and that the project had not been granted a special planning authority status like the controversial Lavasa project.
The approval was granted through a notification on May 19 under the 1996 special regulations for tourism and township development in hill station-like areas.
On March 12, the state-level expert appraisal committee (SEAC) of the Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) had noted after a site visit that “this proposal appears to be in line with the earlier two projects in the region in the catchment area of major dams, such as Amby Valley and Lavasa. Both projects are (a) little controversial and are considered by environmental experts as direct threat to biodiversity and ecology. The same mistake should not be repeated in this project.”
The panel said the proposal over-emphasises planned development for the urban rich by development of golf courses and artificial water bodies, instead of giving attention to biodiversity, local social milieu and sustainable development.
After a hearing in May, the committee has kept its clearance to the project in abeyance, saying its members would consider it after referring to the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) report, which was recently made public by MoEF.
Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan said, “In the case of Amby Valley and Lavasa, certain environmental clearances were not taken. But this project will go through all requisite scrutiny.”
Voyants Solutions Pvt Ltd, consultants to M/s Maharashtra Valley View Pvt Ltd, which has mooted the proposal, did not respond to a detailed email sent by HT.