Hitting a reconciliatory note, the chief managing director of Lavasa Corporation Limited, Ajit Gulabchand, on Friday, said the company was willing to rectify mistakes, if they had made any, while implementing the country’s first hill city project in Pune district.
“There are no specific standards since it is a first-of-its-kind project. All of us are learning. If some mistakes have taken place, those have to be seen against this backdrop,” Gulabchand said, minutes after an eight-member committee of the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) completed its crucial three-day site inspection of the hill city.
There was some relief in store for Lavasa Corporation with Naresh Dayal, chairperson of the Centre’s Expert Appraisal Committee and head of the visiting panel, telling reporters in Pune that prima facie there was no large scale destruction of forest cover at Lavasa. National Alliance of People’s Movement leader Medha Patkar had alleged that the project had led to destruction of forests in the region. Lavasa had denied the allegation.
Dayal also said that he did not feel that the project will affect water supply to Pune city, a concern anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare had raised.
Dayal said all sides had the same concerns. “Even Lavasa does not want an environment disaster in the long run and villagers also want sustainable development,” he said.
Dayal’s statements indicate that the panel has not found clinching evidence about environmental degradation against the corporation and might suggest a “workable” formula.
The Hindustan Times had first reported in its August 20 edition that the 25,000-acre project had come under the scanner of if the MoEF for allegedly violating environmental norms.
Gulabchand said he had communicated his thoughts to the EAC and even he was not aware if everything with the project was perfect. “I am open to corrections but any solution should not make business impossible.”
He also denied that Union agriculture minister, Sharad Pawar, was associated with Lavasa. “The idea to develop the lake district was his as was the site selection. But that’s all.’’
Gulabchand said the policy on developing hill cities was framed during the saffron rule between 1995 and 1999.
Dayal refused to comment on the stop-work notice issued to Lavasa by the MoEF. “We had come here for a technical study and we will submit a factual report to the ministry. It is up to the ministry and court to take the decision,” Dayal clarified.
The committee is expected to submit it report to the MoEF on January 10, after which the ministry is expected to announce its final order on the project.