The favourite getaway for most Mumbaiities may not be as attractive as it looks.
About 90 km away from Mumbai, Lonavla has witnessed rampant mushrooming of resorts, hotels and holiday homes — many of them illegal.
The structures came under the spotlight after a Mumbai-based businessman Kishore Jain filed a writ petition in 2009 after a hotel was illegally built next to his weekend home in Lonavla. This year, 13 illegally hotels were razed.
During the hearing, the high court slammed the state and the Lonavla Municipal Council (LMC), asking them to explain why the council shouldn’t be dissolved.
On Monday, the court will hear the petition and pass its judgment.
A recent hydrological survey for the LMC by environmental planner Pallavi Latkar says: “The rapid development in the twin towns completely lacks comprehensive strategies for the conservation of the precious environment.” The infrastructure of these two towns is inadequate to support their population of about 50,000. On weekends, the towns see more than a lakh holidayers.
Subodh Tiwari, secretary of the Lonavla-Khandala Citizens’ Forum, is not too happy with the town’s ‘favourite-tourist-destination’ tag. “For us, the weekend is like a house arrest. We are forced to remain indoors because even fetching a packet of milk takes two hours,” said Tiwari (38).
The forum in 2008 filed a public interest litigation, seeking the court’s intervention to tackle the illegal constructions and local civic issues. Following a high court directive in 2008, the LMC prepared a list of 750-odd illegal structures in the two towns and demolished them.
Yogesh Godse, chief officer of LMC, will have to reply to the high court’s show cause notice about the state of affairs in Lonavla. “There has been a governance failure in this area, thanks to successive councils failing to rise up to the challenges. As a result, there is a huge gap between the infrastructure needed and what is present.”
The residents know the problem does not end with demolitions. “There is scant respect for the infrastructure needs of the towns. Most politicians and even civic officials want to get into real estate because it promises them big money,” said activist Kiran Merchant.