Special hill station norms misused, says green panel
Is the state government clearing new hill stations for a few privileged elite or for the public? This is the question being asked by the state's green panel, which scrutinises all major construction projects with regards to environmental concerns. Ketaki Ghoge reports.mumbai Updated: Jun 12, 2012 00:23 IST
Is the state government clearing new hill stations for a few privileged elite or for the public? This is the question being asked by the state's green panel, which scrutinises all major construction projects with regards to environmental concerns.
The state expert appraisal committee (SEAC), after its site visit to the new hill station recently cleared by the state government in Mulshi taluka of Pune district, felt that the state’s special regulations for development of hill stations, formulated in 1996 and amended in 2005, have “specific interests” at heart and cater to the elite at the cost of ecology and general welfare.
“Some of the valid objections for the projects under the hill station development notification are that the scheme has been misused and is in contravention to basic intentions of the notification, ie, to provide alternative tourist areas to remove pressure on popular hill stations like Matheran, Mahabaleshwar and Lonavala,” the panel noted in its observations made on March 12 and 14.
Two months later, the state government issued a notification delineating the area spanning seven villages, barring the gaothan, in the eco-sensitive Western Ghats region for the development of a hill station. The panel had specifically pointed out, “The proposed project is being developed as a ‘gated’ community, similar to other projects like Amby Valley and Lavasa, aimed at and meant for clients from upper strata of the society, and not the general public at large.” The SEAC has considered this project for clearance in its meeting held in December last year and February, March and May 2012. In its meeting in March, it had raised 29 environment impact assessment (EIA) related concerns, including calling for geological studies, detailed EIA report, water availability, energy sustainability etc.
Shiv Sena legislator Neelam Gorhe, who had raised concerns over this development in the legislature, told HT, “If local interests and aspirations are included in this project then we welcome this kind of development. Our concern is that locals should be allowed to open small resorts and restaurants in this hill station. Also, it should be open to all and not just the rich.”