The National Green Tribunal (NGT), Pune, directed a Mumbai-based builder to pay the Lonavala Municipal Council (LMC) Rs40 lakh to repair environmental damage caused by a construction site in Khandala.
The applicants, Nanik Rupani and Ashish Vaid, residents of Vikas Valley CHS, Khandala, said the builder – Vikas Developers – had illegally cut into the hillside and felled trees to construct an unauthorised road, without seeking permission from the municipal council first.
In an order passed on Tuesday and made public on Friday, the division bench of Justice UD Salvi and expert member Ranjan Chatterjee restrained the builder from felling any more trees and from cutting into the hill. It directed the municipal council to restore the destroyed recreation ground and hillside to their original status.
“The respondent, Vikas Developers, shall jointly pay the amount needed to restitute the space. They shall initially deposit Rs40 lakh with the LMC within a month,” read the order. “The developers shall pay the applicants, Nanik Rupani and Ashish Vaid, Rs1 lakh as litigation fees.”
The application — filed with the tribunal through advocate Aditya Pratap Singh in December 2014 — states that the developer illegally constructed a six-metre-wide and 105-m-long road. “This road cuts through a recreation ground, which is a compulsory open space reserved for a garden. He recklessly cut several trees, along with the hillside, without permission from the LMC,” read the application.
During the hearing, the developer denied the allegations, saying the petition was time-barred and the applicants had no right to appear in a court. The developer declined to respond to HT’s queries.
“We direct the LMC to restitute the area of garden as shown in the sanctioned layout — particularly a six-metre-wide and 105-m-long strip — within six months. The LMC must recover the costs from the builder,” said the tribunal.
The tribunal held that the site photographs, Google Earth images and an expert report submitted by the applications were proof of the environmental damage caused by the developer. “Unauthorised tree felling and hill cutting is an offence to the environment,” said the bench.