The ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) on Friday refused to give environmental clearance to the first phase of Lavasa?s hill town project near Pune till all the pre-conditions set by the state government are met.
In its order dated October 13, the MoEF said: ?The final decision on the environmental clearance cannot be taken till all the pre-conditions are met including credible action by the state government of Maharashtra and subject to the-final orders of the high court of Bombay as the matter is sub judice?.
The refusal comes four months after the ministry asked Maharashtra’s environment department to ?initiate necessary action? on constructions on the contentious 681 hectare of the first phase of the 2,000-hectare project. Incidentally, the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) ? an independent body of the MoEF had recommended giving a conditional nod to the first phase. The ministry’s new order came after Bombay High Court last month directed it to pass the final order on regularisation application of the roject.
“As the pre-condition on the credible action on violation of EIA Notification, 2006 has not been complied with, the ministry is unable to issue the environmental clearance to the first phase of Hill City project,? the order said.
Lavasa, which was disappointed with the MoEF’s order, in a statement said: ?In fact, it is not even an ?order?. After 11 months of continued delaying tactics, the MoEF has yet again evaded grant of environment clearance (EC). To suggest that the state government of Maharashtra has not yet taken action is not a good enough reason for delaying grant of EC, to such a large and important project, under development for last seven years.?
The five pre-conditions pertained to credible action by the Maharashtra government against the violation under the Environment Protection Act, a written commitment by Lavasa that the violations would not be repeated, a clear demarcation of no-development zones, at least 5% of the total cost of the project to be earmarked for corporate social responsibility and Lavasa’s commitment to creating an Environment Restoration Fund.
Lavasa further said: ?The state government had issued EC to Lavasa in 2004. In fact, the MoEF appointed EAC has also recommended clearance to the project and the same was accepted by the MoEF in June 2011. For the first time in the history of the MoEF, pre-conditions were imposed on Lavasa for granting EC. Lavasa has already complied with all the pre-conditions which we were supposed to fulfill. We find this move by the MoEF highly discriminatory and unjust.?
Lavasa had earlier claimed that the hill project was treated differently as compared with other projects to which the ministry said: ? Lavasa’s project is a large construction/development project covering an area of 2,000 hectare and located in the hilly terrain which involved large scale cutting and filling and change of drainage pattern.
The magnitude of violation and impact of environmental degradation is spread on larger areas. The pre-conditions are required for such type of project.?