The expert committee, which visited Lavasa in the first week of January for a site visit, has raised several questions about the way the state government granted clearance to the hill city project in 2004.
In its report submitted to the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF), the committee has also raised apprehensions about the “haphazard hill-cutting and quarrying’’ undertaken to obtain building material.
The report of the committee, led by the chairman of the Centre’s expert appraisal committee, Naresh Dayal, has said that no documents about how clearance was granted to the project and the appraisal process undertaken, were made available to it.
The state had issued a no-objection certificate to the project within three months of its application. This was converted into a full-fledged approval in March 2004 for the first phase spread across 2,000 hectares. But the state has no details of the site inspection or about whether a public hearing was undertaken before construction began.
The committee’s report says the clearance did not specify essential details of the project such as the number of buildings, types of buildings and their usage, built-up area, and general and specific conditions for mitigating environmental impacts”.
The Centre’s notification in 1994 and 1997 had made it mandatory for project developers to submit detailed environment impact assessment (EIA) reports, disaster management plans and documents on public hearing.
Lavasa has maintained that the hill city project did not come under the ambit of the Centre’s environment notifications but was cleared under the state’s hill station development policy.
The report also said that the EIA prepared by NEERI on the company’s initiative was “inadequate’’ especially since the project was located in eco-sensitive area of Western Ghats.
The report slams Lavasa for submitting a proposal for clearance for the next phase of 5,000 hectares, including the earlier phase, only in 2009 “when the damage to the environment in the first phase had already taken place’’.
The report says haphazard hill cutting by the developers would lead to landslides and high soil erosion. It has said that the compliances for quarrying for the project need to be re-examined and carried out in a scientific way especially for a project in an eco sensitive zone.
The committee also observed that there were non-compliances with consent orders for use of sewage-treated water and biomedical waste. The committee has also noted the impact of construction of bunds on water supply downstream.