The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has hinted at granting conditional environmental clearance for the hill station project being developed by Lavasa Corporation Ltd. But, the construction work at the project will not resume until the MoEF passes its final order.
Bharat Bhushan, director, MoEF stated in an affidavit filed on Wednesday in the Bombay high court that on May 31, the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) had recommended a proposal for environmental clearance for the first phase of the hill city on 2,000 hectares.
The EAC, according to the affidavit filed in response to a petition by Lavasa Corporation Ltd, has put 34 pre-conditions in all . Additional solicitor general Darius Khambata told the high court that five of those pre-conditions were very stringent.
The pre-conditions include action for environmental violations, a written commitment from Lavasa Corporation that the violations shall not be repeated, the scale and intensity of the hill station shall be in accordance with the Hill Station Regulations framed by the Maharashtra government, Lavasa Corporation shall earmark 5% of the total project cost for Corporate Social Responsibility, and the Hindustan Construction Company shall also submit an undertaking to earmark necessary funds to meet quantum of penalty to be decided by the ministry.
The affidavit said a high-level committee would also monitor implementation of separate concurrent conditions at various stages — planning, construction, operation and maintenance.
The affidavit states that the state government has been instructed to initiate action for violations of provisions of the Environmental Protection Act and intimate MoEF about the action taken.
Lavasa Corporation moved the high court challenging MoEF's action of issuing a show-cause notice to it purportedly for failing to obtain mandatory environmental clearance before starting work.
On Wednesday, the company's counsel Shekhar Naphade urged the court to direct the MoEF to pass a final order on the show-cause notice at the earliest as seven months have already passed.
Khambata told the court that the final order would be passed in 3 to 4 weeks. He added that until the final order is passed, the earlier order to maintain status quo at the project site would continue. The petition will come up for hearing on July 12.