Residents of 14 villages included in the Lavasa hill city in Pune district have objected to “attempts to defame the project’’.
Members of the Mose Khore Nagrik Vikas Sangh, a body of villagers from Mose valley, wrote to local revenue officials on Saturday saying they were happy with the way they were being rehabilitated.
The villagers gathered at Lavasa hill city on Saturday to protest the allegations that the project had violated environment norms. “Some NGOs and local people are making false allegations against the project. It is being made to look like all villages in Mose valley are against Lavasa,” said the organisation’s president Laxman Pasalkar. “There is no truth to this.”
Pasalkar said 350 villagers are working on the project and at least 600 families are depending on it for livelihood. “We don’t want another Singur here,” he said, referring to the trouble farmers in Singur, West Bengal, had after the Tata Nano factory moved out due to political opposition.
Lavasa is spread across 25,000 acres and 18 villages in Mulshi and Velhe talukas in the ecologically fragile Sahyadris.
The Union Environment ministry has raised questions on the project following complaints from activists that it could damage the environment.
Hindustan Times had reported on August 20 that the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) had asked the state government for details of environment clearances given to the project.
Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh had also asked Chief Minister Ashok Chavan to look into the “truth of allegations’’ against Lavasa. The state government has also asked the Revenue department to submit report on land dealings under the project. Revenue Minister Narayan Rane will convene a meeting in the first week of September for this.
The villagers have, meanwhile, told revenue officials that 80 per cent of the landholders had sold their land to small investors by 1998 whereas Lavasa started buying the remaining land in 2000.
The villagers said the company paid a good price for their land and provided them with homes, drinking water and education and health facilities.
Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar defended the project saying the proposed hill city was being built according to a government policy to promote hill stations.
The project’s initial promoters included Pawar’s daughter, Member of Parliament Supriya Sule, son-in-law Sadanand Sule, and close associate, Aniruddha Deshpande. The Sules offloaded their stake in the project in 2004.
“No hill station has been built in the country after independence. A committee on this submitted a 350-page report saying the private sector should be encouraged to build hill stations,’’ Pawar said.