Shiv Sena leader and former Union environment minister Suresh Prabhu said he would send a notice to Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society asking it to return the money he paid for a flat in the 31-storey tower. He also denied granting it any environmental clearances.
The tower at Colaba was allegedly built in violation of environmental norms and on the promise that houses would be given to war veterans and widows. However, most of the flats were allotted to bureaucrats, politicians and Army and Navy commanders.
The Congress had accused Prabhu of having cleared the project while he was environment minister in the National Democratic Alliance government.
“I was not a minister when the clearance was given. I held the post in 1998-1999,” said Prabhu, a four-time Lok Sabha MP from Rajapur in Maharastra, till he lost the 2009 elections. He pointed out that it was the Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam’s TR Baalu who was environment minister in 2003. Baalu is now part of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government.
The plot on which the society stands is part of the Coastal Regulation Zone 1, the most eco-sensitive coastal area because it has mangroves and mudflats. In such zones, for projects costing more than Rs 5 crore, a Central environment ministry sanction is needed.
Ministry officials, however, have said no such sanction was given.
Prabhu, who is currently in Singapore for a conference on energy, told Hindustan Times that he is not a promoter or office-bearer of the society. “I got a flat that was part of a quota for MPs and because it was going at a concession. I took a home loan for it and the flat is still on mortgage,” Prabhu said.
He said that he got all the clearances required for the loan, including an approval from then collector.
“Now I find out that the project is in trouble. I will send a notice to the society asking it to return my money,” Prabhu said.
He insisted that he was not aware of any violations committed by the society.