80 mega Pune projects face punitive action for flouting green norms
Environmental watchdog files criminal cases against the developers and owners for allegedly flouting green norms to build sprawling complexes on the city’s fringes.pune Updated: Jul 02, 2017 14:08 IST
PUNE: Maharashtra’s environmental watchdog has filed criminal cases against the developers and owners of about 80 projects that allegedly flouted green norms to build sprawling complexes on the fringes of Pune, HT has found.
The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) filed complaints before the chief judicial magistrate between 2014 and 2017 under the Environment Protection Act (EPA) 1986. In the dock are projects run by Pune-based firms Marvel Realtors, Nyati Builders, Rahul Construction, Suyog Development Corporation and information technology company Zensar Technologies, among others.
The cases are being heard, and those found guilty can be fined up to Rs 1 lakh or jailed up to five years, or both. The full list of the alleged violators is with HT.
“The powerful developer lobby thinks they can get away with anything. The violation shows there are laws but powerful people do not follow them,” said activist Vijay Kumbhar, who was the petitioner in a case that exposed real-estate irregularities and is said to have led to the resignation of former chief minister Manohar Joshi.
Despite repeated attempts over four days, MPCB member secretary Dr P Anbalagan could not be reached for comments as he was away on a tour to Munich. His deputy, MPCB (Pune) Regional Officer, Jagannath Salunkhe, said, “These cases have been filed by MPCB against various entities for not taking environmental clearances prior to starting construction.” Salunkhe said the cases were filed on the instructions of the environment department.
Pune’s real-estate sector has zoomed in the past decade, buoyed by growing demand from IT and education sectors. In the past few years, several reports of hill cutting, illegal land transactions, rampant use of dam water and razing of trees raised concerns about the future of the nearly 10,000 species of flora and fauna found across the Western Ghats. One prominent instance of a major real estate project in Pune district that came under severe strictures for environmental violations was the 2000-hectare Lavasa Lakecity Project in the heavily forested area of Mulshi taluka in Pune district.
The current complaints come after years of political storm around the Lavasa Project that was accused of bulldozing past green norms and building massive projects in the heavily forested Mulshi taluka of Pune district.
Prominent ecologist Madhav Gadgil, who headed the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel, said environmental violation by developers was nothing new. “It’s good to see authorities taking action against those violating the environmental norms,” he said.
The cases were filed on the recommendation of the State Level Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC) after it found construction was started without environmental clearances. The 2006 notification of SEAC states that those who want to construct above 200,000 sq feet must take permission from the SEAC.
In a number of cases, the developers allegedly sought permission but initiated construction even before the permission was granted, the committee found.
Rahul Kunkulol, promoter of Rahul Construction said, “We were found to have violated the rules in one of our project. But later we received sanction for the project,” he claimed. Rahul Construction has projects in Warje, Baner and Hadapsar begun in 2015.
Bharat Shah, founder of Suyog Development Corporation, and the respondent in an MPCB case filed this year, said, “The case has been there but we have already submitted our application (for environmental clearance). We hope to get the clearance by this month-end.” His firm has projects in Wagholi and other areas of Pune.
Phone calls and text messages to Nitin Nyati, chairman of Nyati group and Vishwajeet Jhavar, CEO Marvel Realtors, went unanswered.
When contacted, former Zensar Technologies chairman Ganesh Natarajan said the case was old.
“Some campus was being built and at that time the case was filed. However since I am no longer with Zensar, I am not in a position to officially comment on the matter.” Speaking to HT, Zensar Technologies spokesperson confirmed that a case had been filed by MPCB and said it was filed on wrong grounds. “Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) has filed the case on wrong grounds against Zensar Technologies Limited. Zensar has filed an application for quashing of the case in Pune court. The matter is sub-judice and we will not be able to comment further,” the official response from Zensar Technologies said.