Lavasa gets a showcause notice

The Rs 2,153-crore Lavasa project has been served a show-cause notice by the Union environment ministry (MoEF) asking why the illegal structures on the 25,000 acre complex in Pune district should not be demolished for violation of the Environment Protection Act. The ministry also ordered Lavasa to stop all construction on site till the Centre takes a decision on the show cause notice, and demanded that Lavasa’s promoters back up their explanation by photographic evidence and satellite imagery.Lavasa has been given a fortnight to reply to the show cause notice. The ministry has noted that the luxury township had got clearance in 2004 to construct only over 2,000 hecatres and that too on lands ranging less than 1,000 metres above sea level.However,investigations by the Pune collector showed that 47.30 hectare of the land on which the promoters had undertaken construction was above 1,000m. In a media release,Lavasa said it was yet to receive the notice and that it would respond to it as soon as it got it. The notice has been put on the ministry’s website. Significantly, NCP boss and Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, in a recent newspaper interview, said he had selected the site for Lavasa. He also said his daughter Supriya Sule and her husband Sadanand were prominent shareholders in the project in the earlier stages, but had since sold their stake. He said the promoters should be held responsible for any irregularities that may have been committed. The ministry also noted that deviations were made from the approved plan during the first phase of construction that began in 2004, and that the developers did not obtain clearance from the MoEF as they were required to after an amendment to the environemnt regulations the same year. Lavasa Corporation Limited (LCL), the project developer, is a subsidiary of the Hindustan Construction Company. In its order, environment ministry said environmental clearances are mandatory for township and construction projects of this size. The National Alliance of People Movement complained to the environment ministry about the violation, leading the Centre to ask for a report from the Maharashtra government in June 2010. The Maharashtra environment secretary replied in August stating environmental clearance had been given in March 2004 for construction over a 2,000 hectares stretch. The Centre responded by asking the Maharashtra government in September 2010 to reexamine the project and take action in case of any violations. LCL, in its response to queries by the state department, admitted that some construction had been made above 1000 metres — which under law would have required prior central government environmental clearance. The Centre has also recorded in its show cause notice that it had asked the Maharashtra government to ensure the clearance process was in order as far back as in 2005.

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