The Rs 2,153 crore high-end luxury Lavasa hill city project near Pune has been declared unauthorised by the environment ministry, but with a lifeline.
The project can be regularised after payment of substantial penalty and the creation of Environmental Restoration Fund (ERF) by Lavasa Corporation Limited (LCL), the ministry, headed by Jairam Ramesh, told Bombay High Court on Tuesday.
The ministry, however, in lieu of investments made and third party rights created, has offered to regularise the project.It has also ordered that since there was environmental degradation, all work at Lavasa will continue to be stayed until the company takes steps to regularise the project. It has also asked the company to prepare a comprehensive Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) and environment management plan.
The order, signed by director of MoEF Bharat Bhushan, states, "If LCL gives relevant and credible material to enable MoEF to proceed further, MoEF is willing to consider the project on merits subject to imposition of penalties, creation of ERF and formation of comprehensive EIA report."
HT was the first newspaper to report on August 20, 2010 that the MoEF had begun probing the irregularities in the hill city project. Lavasa Corporation has said that its legal counsels are "studying the order and will explore all options available to the company".
In a statement, Lavasa said that MoEF's order is based more on jurisdiction of powers between the state and the Centre and applicability of the environment notification rather than environment.
MoEF submitted its order and the site report undertaken by a technical committee at Lavasa to the Bombay HC on Tuesday.The order was issued based on reports filed by advisor to MoEF Nalini Bhat, the hearings granted to Lavasa and the site report. The reports said the company had failed to take approval for the project under different environmental notifications of the Centre and instead constructed the township on basis of a clearance by the state's environment department for 2,000 hectares.