The Centre’s expert appraisal committee (EAC), scrutinising the 25,000-acre Lavasa hill city project in Pune district afresh for a clearance has deferred the proposal and raised several doubts over the environment impact assessment reports the developer has received.
Lavasa Corporation Limited had moved the EAC for a clearance for the first phase of its project, spread over 2,000 hectares, on February 14. A spokesperson for the company declined to comment on the matter.
The minutes of the meeting, issued on Friday, state that the EAC has now asked Lavasa Corporation to undertake a detailed environment impact assessment (EIA) study of the project site and the area that falls within a 10-km radius, for all the seasons for two consecutive years given “the importance of such findings in deciding developmental activities in the area”.
The panel has said that the EIA study should be carried out by a team of experts.
This may stall the hill city project for another two years until the new EIA is completed.
The minutes of the meeting also state that a detailed study is essential because the project includes the construction of a tunnel, aerial ropeways, common municipal solid waste management facilities, stone mining and construction.
The ministry of environment and forests had in January declared the Lavasa project unauthorised saying it was damaging to the environment. Lavasa Corporation has moved the Bombay high court against the MoEF’s order.
It has also sought six weeks in a pending petition against the ministry’s show cause notice issued last year because it wanted to submit the details of the project to the ministry.
The MoEF, in its final order, had said that the project could be considered on merit after it meets certain conditions, including the payment of a hefty penalty.
The EAC has also asked Lavasa to submit mitigation plans from detailed soil analysis, energy conservation plans, and plans for monitoring ambient air quality at the site for the project to be reconsidered.
The committee has raised doubts over the EIA reports published by the company in 2004, 2008 and 2011. Each of these reports monitored data for the summer of the year earlier.
The committee has said that none of these reports have assessed the impact of the project beyond the site for the area within a radius of 10km – essential for such an appraisal.
It has also pointed to contradictions in the reports. For instance, the committee has observed that while the reports of 2004 and 2008 confirm the presence of heavy metals, especially lead – the 2004 report shows the levels are up to four times the permissible limits - in surface water, the 2011 report shows no detection of lead in water at any location.