Citing “lack of clarity” on the details submitted, the environment ministry on Tuesday refused to lift its stay on construction of the Lavasa hill city project in Maharashtra and announced that a final decision will be taken in the case by the month-end after hearing the company again.
The Ministry asked Lavasa to represent its case with full details on December 22 before a final view can be taken on the controversial Rs 3,000-crore project.
In an order issued on Tuesday, the Ministry said that in view of “lack of clarity” on the details submitted by the Lavasa Corporation and “large-scale environmental degradation” in the region, no activities would be allowed at the site till a final decision is taken.
“...Ministry is of the considered opinion that the directions issued under Section 5 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, to Lavasa Corporation Limited on November 25 to stop project activities going on at the site should continue till the final analysis is undertaken...,” the order said. The Ministry said “an order could be expected on or before December 31”.
Responding to the interim order, Lavasa said, “it appears the MOEF has not taken note and cognisance of the facts” stated by the company during the hearing on December 9 and 10. It also claimed that all concerns raised by the Ministry during the hearing have been addressed.
The Ministry's interim order comes two days ahead of the hearing of the case in the Bombay High Court which had asked the ministry to decide by December 16 whether construction at the site should be allowed.
The court order was in the wake of Lavasa's petition alleging that the environment ministry has issued a show-cause notice to it in haste and “under pressure” from activists such as Medha Patkar.
The Ministry had issued a show-cause notice to Hindustan Construction Company's unit Lavasa Corporation on November 25 asking it why the project should not be done away with for violation of various norms and saying that Lavasa should not undertake construction at the site till it files its reply to the Ministry and a decision is taken on it.
Denying the allegations, the Lavasa in its 66-page petition in the court has defended the development of the hill station saying it was need of the hour as there is tremendous pressure on existing ones in the state.
The petition also submitted that the state government had granted it environmental clearance on March 18, 2004, after considering the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report of National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI).