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Damage to green zones a concern

mumbai Updated: Jan 20, 2011 03:17 IST
Ketaki Ghoge
Ketaki Ghoge
Hindustan Times
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The Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) wants the state to review the hill station development policy to avert damage to ecologically sensitive zones.

The MoEF referred to the hill station policy in its order on Lavasa hill city on Tuesday.

The MoEF has termed the hill city project, planned across 18 villages in the eco-sensitive Western Ghats in Pune district, as “unauthorised’’ and “environmentally damaging”.

The central committee of environment experts that visited Lavasa earlier this month had reported that the state gave Lavasa environmental clearance without looking into details such as number of buildings and land-use plan, and without a site visit or public hearing.

In a statement issued in response to the MoEF’s order on Tuesday, Lavasa said the panel’s report amplified minor faults and ignored the environmental work done in the hill city. It said the MoEF’s order was largely on the grounds of jurisdiction and did not address environment issues.

An MoEF official, requesting anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the media, said the state will have to ensure that every project under the hill station policy gets the environment clearance under the environment impact assessment notification.

“Following communication from the Centre, the state will initiate the process to review the policy and also review other projects cleared under the policy,” said a state bureaucrat, requesting anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the media.

The Centre will also take note of complaints against the Special Planning Authority (SPA), set up for Lavasa under the hill station development policy, as being biased and will ask the state to avoid setting up such bodies for other hill station projects.

There were complaints of haphazard hill cutting, non-compliances of consent granted, inadequate Environment Impact Assessment report against Lavasa. The MoEF report says that the SPA set up for Lavasa mainly included members from Hindustan Construction Company, Lavasa’s parent company. This raised issues of conflict of interest, the report says.

Lavasa said that the MoEF did not have “objective and measurable norms’’ and instead of restricting itself to environment issues has resorted to questioning the state government jurisdiction, the hill station policy, and the SPA, among other things.