Going on the offensive, Lavasa Corporation Limited, developers of Lavasa hill city, on Monday challenged the jurisdiction of the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF), saying it did not have the powers to order work on the project’s 2,000-hectare first phase in Pune district to stop.
In its reply to the central environment ministry’s show-cause notice dated November 28, Lavasa has also pointed out that the notice glossed over many facts including the MoEF’s clearances for the transmission line and tunnel as late as March 2009 and August this year.
Lavasa has asked how authorities remained silent and continued to grant clearances for six years before taking action.
The company’s reply has highlighted the role of the state and central government officials, who seem to have gone slow on the issue. Sources in the MoEF said former environment department officials could be now under the scanner for their actions.
The state had asked Lavasa to get a clearance from the Centre in August 2005 and November 2008 but officials did not pursue the matter after the company said the project had received clearance from the state in 2004 and did not require MoEF’s nod.
The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB), in its July 2005 letter to the Centre, toed the company line saying the project did not attract provisions of the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification of 2004. The MoEF still did not pursue the matter.
“Candid silence on your part is a clear pointer to the fact that you had no quarrel with interpretation of MPCB in 2005...suddenly you have woken up in 2010,” Lavasa has said in its reply.
The reply said as a hill station, classified by the state as a tourism project under special regulations, the project was exempt from the EIA notification of 1994 and 2004, because it was located less than 1,000 metres above sea level. The company said the ministry’s claim that 47 hectares of the project was above 1,000 metres was untrue and that it did not have access to the collector’s report the MoEF has referred to.
It said the project came under the ambit of the 2006 EIA notification but for expansion beyond 2,000 hectares.