The show-cause notice from the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to the Lavasa hill city spread across 25,000 acres of land in Pune district comes as an embarrassment to the state that has been maintaining that the clearances given to the project were legal.
The notice has questioned how the state could have allowed construction despite laws mandating that large-scale projects should get a nod from the Centre. The notice says that an MoEF letter in 2005 had reminded the state that the project came under the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) amendment of 2004 and should get central clearance.
Environment minister Sanjay Deotale said: “The ministry has sent Lavasa a show-cause notice and the outcome depends on the Centre’s decision. We will maintain transparency and act against officials if they are found guilty of purposely bypassing laws.’’
The MoEF had asked the state for details of the project twice this year, after it got a legal notice from the National Alliance of People’s Movement (NAPM) in May. The NAPM has moved the Bombay High Court against the project.
The matter came to light when Lavasa approached to the state expert appraisal committee in March for environmental clearance for its 12,355-acre second phase. It is yet to submit an EIA report to any authority.
The HT’s edition dated August 20, 2010, had first reported that the project had come under the MoEF’s scanner for alleged violations. Environment minister Jairam Ramesh had written to then chief minister Ashok Chavan in July asking him to verify the truth behind these allegations. The state had maintained that it had asked Lavasa to move to the Centre for clearance but the EIA was amended again in 2006 to form state appraisal committees that Lavasa approached in March.
Friday’s developments may strain relations between the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). NCP chief Sharad Pawar in a recent newspaper interview had said he had selected the Pune site for the project.
The project’s initial stakeholders included Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule and her husband, Sadanand Sule, although they withdrew from the project in 2004.