Two-and-a-half years after the state government first notified 5,914 acres spread across seven villages in Mulshi taluka, Pune district, as a hill station, a Rs 2,000-crore project in the region has got an environment clearance.
The State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) gave a conditional go-ahead to the Mulshi hill city project by the Maharashtra Valley View Private Limited — the third one in the region after Amby Valley and Lavasa — in its last meeting in October. HT had first reported about this hill station project in 2012.
The project has been given a clearance even though the proposed area falls under the ecological sensitive zone of the Western Ghats and is a no-development area, according to the Kasturiranjan committee report. The report had barred any major construction at 2,000-odd villages in the Western Ghats.
The clearance comes after four years of scrutiny by the State Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC) and impact assessment authority — the panels that form a two-tier environment clearance process for all big projects.
But, it was an order by the Union environment ministry in November 2013 that ensured a ‘back-door entry’ for the project. The order stated that projects presented to the SEAC, before the Kasturiranjan report was accepted on April 17, 2013, could be appraised according to old rules. The Mulshi hill city project by the Maharashtra Valley View Private Limited was submitted to the panel in 2011.
“We have followed all precautions before clearing this project. The hill station project is permissible within the existing laws. So, although it falls in a biodiversity hotspot, we cannot stay it,” a member of the panel said.
Environment activists are however likely to up their ante against this clearance. The proposed hill city project, about 160 kms from Mumbai, falls within the 10-km radius of three dams — Pawna, Mulshi and Saltar dam. It also falls in the 10-km radius of reserve forests Salte, Barpe and Budhru.
The clearance, however, means that all hurdles for the project have been crossed and work can now start on land and infrastructure development, such as laying of electricity, telecommunications, transportation, etc.
The project envisages 7,760 residential units, seven hotels, one convention centre and five commercial areas, according to the proposal submitted to the green panel.