As the Centre probes whether the construction of Lavasa hill city in Pune district has damaged the ecology of the Sahyadri’s forests, the developers of the township will have to fight on two other fronts before getting a clear go-ahead for the second phase of the project.
Following Hindustan Times’ report on the Union Environment Ministry’s directive to the state seeking details of the environmental clearances given to the hill city, state Revenue Minister Narayan Rane said he was looking into a report by local revenue authorities on allegations related to land acquisition for the project.
“I have received the report,” Rane told journalists on Friday. “The inquiry was initiated following demands by the Opposition last year.”
Lawyer and former Indian Police Service officer Y.P. Singh, who represents six organisations, had sent a legal notice to the Union environment ministry in May challenging the clearances and asking it to stop all work at Lavasa city under the Environment Protection Act.
Singh told HT that the legal notice dated May 18 was filed using provisions of an environment protection notification issued in 1994.
Singh is representing social workers and organisations, including Medha Patkar-led National Alliance for People’s Movement.
He has challenged the state’s report that showed Lavasa’s altitude as 975 metres saying it was higher at some places.
The 1994 notification said projects located above an altitude of 1,000 metres should be cleared by the Centre and not the state.
He also said that a public hearing, as mandated by the 1994 notification, should be held. “Such massive construction started in an ecologically fragile area of the Western Ghats, where rainfall exceeding 100 inches annually…can lead to adverse effects [such as emission] of greenhouse gases contributing to global warming.’’
State Environment Minister Suresh Shetty said the project was given clearances in 2002 according to government norms prevalent then. “In 2004, the rules governing the environment clearance changed and accordingly, the developers were asked to move to the Centre for clearance,” Shetty said.
In 2006, however, the rules were changed again and a state level experts’ panel was formed for clearing such projects. “Even now, after the state panel’s go-ahead, Lavasa will need a clearance from the Centre,” Shetty said.