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Ketaki Ghoge, Hindustan Times
Mumbai, November 17, 2012
The proposed new hill station in Mulshi taluka in Pune district is headed for the long haul, with the state green panel unlikely to clear the project any time soon. The State Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC) that scrutinises mega construction projects for environment clearance has once again deferred the go ahead to the Rs2,000-crore hill station and has asked project developers to get a new Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) study done.

In a meeting held on November 7, the SEAC asked the project developer, Maharashtra Valley View Private Limited, to revise their EIA study as its present report did not confirm with the general guidelines laid down by the ministry. 
The panel in the minutes of the November meeting said that EIA study should cover an area with a 10-km radius from the boundary of the project. This revised study will take around 5 to 6 months.

The panel also reiterated that the proposed project area is in Mulshi taluka, which has been designated as an eco-sensitive zone in the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) report.

This report says that no hill station should be allowed in eco-sensitive zones. “We do not want to rush in with any clearance to the project as it is in an eco-sensitive zone. Further, there is no satisfactory compliance to many of the points we had raised earlier,’’ said a committee member.

The SEAC has considered this project in its last 8 meetings since last year but withheld clearance so far over. The panel had earlier raised concerns over the project being built in eco sensitive zone of Western Ghats and 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.

SEAC, a committee set up by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) is the first tier in the clearance process. SEAC recommendations are in turn considered by the final three member State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA).
The new hill station spread across 5,914 acres in 7 villages was notified for development as a hill station by the state in May this year. The state clearance to the project had caused a stir in political circles as it had come while the Lavasa hill city controversy was yet unresolved.