Nearly a year ago, the state government's urban development department (UDD) recommended that the controversial Special Planning Authority (SPA) status given to Lavasa Corporation be revoked, but no action has been taken so far.
The file is awaiting chief minister Prithviraj Chavan's clearance. When contacted, the CM told HT that he would get back with his comment.
The SPA status gives an entity the power to draw up land use plans, develop land in its jurisdiction, sanction constructions and punish irregularities. The status is usually granted to government undertakings such as the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority and the City and Industrial Development Corporation.
The UDD recommended that the SPA status be revoked after it sought the opinion of the Union urban development ministry, which pointed out that Maha-rashtra is the only state that has granted such a status to a private company and that it should not set such a precedent.
"Following this, the UDD recommended that the status be revoked. The file moved to the CM's office last year," a source said, on condition of anonymity.
In March this year, Pawar and Lavasa Corporation chairman Ajit Gulabchand had met the CM to discuss issues pertaining to the hill city.
The Comptroller and Auditor General, in its 2012 report, reprimanded the state government for granting the SPA status to a private firm, opening doors to irregularities and violations of environment laws.
In 2010, the Union environment ministry had also advised the state government to rethink its hill station policy and avoid establishing such authorities for other hill stations, in the light of alleged environmental and land violations by Lavasa.
HT first reported about the Lavasa issue in August 2010, after the hill city came under the Centre's scanner.
"Granting SPA status to a private company is not justifiable. It basically means that the developer of the project also has the power to monitor and punish irregularities," said lawyer-activist YP Singh, who on Thursday alleged that Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar and his family had granted undue favours to Lavasa Corporation.
The state has defended the granting of SPA status, saying that it is permissible under the Maharashtra Regional Town Planning Act, 1966.
In May, despite serious objections by the state's green panel, Chavan cleared a new hill station spread across seven villages in Mulshi, not far from Lavasa. A private firm, Maharashtra Valley View Pvt Ltd, has acquired substantial land in the region and plans to build a hill city at an estimated cost of Rs 2,000 crore.