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Vinod Kumar , Hindustan Times
Chandigarh, May 09, 2013
Acropolis, a venture of union railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal's nephew Vijay Singla, was in the eye of a storm for violating the environment impact assessment notification, 2006. The firm was slapped with notices by the expert appraisal committee and hauled up for commencing construction without mandatory environment clearance.

The three-year term of the seven-member committee under the chairmanship of Prof RK Kohli, a world-renowned ecologist, expired in December 2012.

Barring Prof Kohli, all members of the committee were reappointed for another term. His exit apparently changed the fortunes of the company as its well-connected management managed to get environment clearance in February this year from the environment impact assessment authority on the mere assurance that they would comply with recommendations of the expert appraisal committee.

Singla is the director of the firm and is currently in Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) custody in the Rs. 90-lakh bribery case.

According to sources, the firm had constructed the framework of the ground floor plus three floors without environment clearance. After the violations were spotted, the firm was directed to stop construction work and they had given an undertaking that no violation would be repeated in future.

Showing scant respect for the directions, the firm continued with the construction work. As per sources, the committee received a complaint about construction work in progress, following which a team of the committee raided the site and found construction going on in June 2012 without environment clearance.

Thereafter, the committee lodged a complaint with the UT administration on August 17, 2012, for taking legal action against the company with regard to the violation under the environment impact assessment notification. The committee had also written to the ministry of environment and forests for taking appropriate action against the firm. However, no action has been initiated against the firm till date.

A committee member, on the request of anonymity, said a lot of pressure was exerted on them for giving clearance to the project after the raid was conducted. Similarly, pressure was also put on officials of the administration by the company management for clearing the project.
Despite repeated attempts, UT adviser KK Sharma and department of environment director Santosh Kumar were not available for comment.

Project at a glance

Acropolis was conceived as a commercial project spread over an area of 16,081 square metres, having built-up area of 52,959 square metres, with the total estimated cost of Rs. 175 crore. The building was supposed to have two basements, ground floor and seven upper floors consisting of one hotel of 84 rooms and three multiplexes with 648 seats. The expected completion time of the project was to be two years.