Lavasa can’t build, has caused green damage: Environment ministry (Lead)

January 18th, 2011 - 9:15 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 18 (IANS) The Lavasa city project near Pune has violated green laws and caused environmental degradation, and no further construction activity can be carried out, the environment ministry Tuesday said in its report to the Bombay High Court.However, the ministry said the project can be considered on merits and imposition of various conditions, including heavy penalty.

The ministry, in its 74-page report, said the construction carried out by Lavasa Corporation for its project is unauthorised. The case will be heard Jan 27.

“The Lavasa project is in violation of the environment laws, the construction is unauthorised and there has been environmental degradation. The status quo be continued and no construction activity be undertaken,” the ministry said.

The ministry had Nov 25 slapped a show-cause notice on Lavasa Corporation because it had allegedly failed to secure necessary environmental clearances before starting work on its 5,000-plus hectare lake city project coming up in Mulshi sub-district of Pune district, around 200 km from Mumbai.

The company approached the Bombay High Court against the environment ministry’s order. The court directed the ministry to send a team to look into the violations and submit a detailed report by Jan 17.

The team visited the Lavasa site Jan 5-7 and found that Lavavsa has violated provisions fo the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. It also brought out the nature and magnitude of the environmental damage caused by the project.

“Taking into account all the facts and circumstances of the case, particularly the submissions made with the regard to the investments already incurred, third party rights which are accrued, steps taken for establishment of a comprehensive hill station, the employment generated and claimed upliftment of the area, the ministry is prepared to consider the project with the imposition of various terms and conditions,” the order said.

The terms and conditions to re-consider the project include: payment of substantial penalty for the violation of environmental laws, which is incontrovertible, creation of an Environmental Restoration Fund (ERF) with sufficiently large corpus which would be managed by an independent body with various stakeholders under supervision of the ministry, and imposition of stringent terms and conditions to ensure that no further environmental degradation takes place.

The ministry has also directed Lavasa Corporation to submit a detailed project report (DPT) for the project and information related to all contracts for construction.

It has also sought full plans prepared in relation to the project and all modifications besides audit statements for all amounts spent on the project since inception and future plans.

“Based on Lavasa’s response, the ministry is prepared to consider the projects on merits subject to the imposition of the penalties, the creation of ERF and the formulation of a comprehensive environmental impact assessment (EIA) report and management for this project,” it further said.

Meanwhile, Lavasa in a statement said that the ministry’s order is more on jurisdiction than on environmental issues.

“The ministry does not have objective and measurable norms. Therefore, instead of restricting themselves to environmental issues, it has resorted to questioning state government jurisdiction,” it said.

Lavasa said its legal counsel are studying the order and will explore all options available to the company.

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