No respite for Lavasa, next HC hearing on December 6

Written by Rachana Khanzode | Mumbai | Updated: Dec 4 2010, 06:17am hrs
Hindustan Construction Corporation (HCC) led Lavasa Corporation could not get an interim-relief from the Bombay High Court on Friday on a show-cause notice issued by the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) last week asking the company to stop construction at its hill-city township project in Mulshi and Velha talukas, Pune.

The high court did not vacate the stay to the construction at the hill station and adjourned the hearing till Monday. The MoEF had issued a showcause notice to Lavasa Corporation asking why unauthorised structures built without environmental clearances between March 18, 2004, and September 14, 2006, at Pune, should not be removed in their entirety.

Representing Lavasa, advocate Shekahar Naphade argued that the Lavasa project was a hill station project and therefore, did not require any clearances from the MoEF under the 2004 and 2006 notifications from the ministry. Also, the project was not new and had started construction in 2003 and therefore, does not come under the purview of the July 7, 2004 amendment by Environmental Impact Assessment Notification (EIAN) 1994.

The 2004 amendment by EIAN, which came into effect from July 7, 2004, mandated that new industrial estates for which environmental clearances had not been given, and where less than 25% of the project expenditure had been made, would require clearance from the union environment ministry.

Representing the MoEF, additional solicitor-general Darius Khambatta, said the state government had told Lavasa on Nov 5, 2008, to take clearance from the MoEF for 2,000 acre of project. However, Lavasa had asked for environment clearances for the entire project (5,000 acre) from MoEF on August 5, 2009, but had not followed-up on the same.The developer needs to take clearances from the MoEF and the process of taking clearance is going on. However, before that, the developer cannot start construction and therefore, should have not started doing so. If the ministry did not take action for two years it does not mean that it cannot take an action now, he added. Responding to Lavasas argument that the developer had already invested Rs 3,000 crore in the project, Khambatta pointed out that it is for the developer to show that the action is legal and under environmental clearances.