‘We want a resolution and are open to dialogue'

S. Shanker Mumbai | Updated on January 24, 2011


Lavasa keen to resolve issue with Environment Ministry

Lavasa Corporation will approach the Environment Ministry to resolve the impasse over the hill station project, said Mr Ajit Gulabchand, Chairman and Managing Director, Hindustan Construction Company, here on Friday.

He, however, reiterated that the dialogue with the Ministry would be ‘without prejudice' to the rights of the company.

Lavasa has filed a writ petition in the Bombay High Court challenging the jurisdiction of the Ministry, stating that the project was cleared by the Maharashtra Government in 2004.

Cannot withdraw case

Asked if it would withdraw the court case, Mr Gulabchand said this was not possible as it has been clubbed along with public interest litigations. On resolving the issue with the Ministry while fighting a court case simultaneously, he said it was not a “fight” but an attempt to resolve the matter.

“We want a resolution and are open to dialogue… only then we would come to know what is workable.” He made it clear that the reports of the Ministry's technical committee and Advisor cited in the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) order were unacceptable.

Responding to the MoEF showcause notice of November 25, Lavasa had stopped work complying with the notice stating status quo and status ante.

The Ministry's order of January 17 said it was prepared to consider the project on merits subject to terms and conditions while continuing with the status quo (stop work).

Mr Gulabchand said the order was based more on a State vs Centre jurisdiction rather than environmental issues. Importantly, the Bombay High Court in its December 22 order observed that the applicability of notifications to which the petitioners had appealed required to be considered, he added.

It remains to be seen whether the Ministry will be open to the idea of negotiating with the company while making its submissions on the issue in court.

Investor interest in Lavasa intact

A little over Rs 6,500 crore has gone into the Lavasa project of which the promoter, Lavasa Corporation, has pumped in about Rs 4,000 crore. The total debt is Rs 2,700 crore.

Indirect investments by individuals and institutions account for Rs 2,500 crore, said Mr Rajgopal Nogja, President, Lavasa Corporation, on the sidelines of a conference.

He said there was no slowdown in investments in the project following the Environment Ministry's January 17 order.

Mr Nogja was confident that Lavasa would tide over the problem in a month or two. He did not comment on the Rs 2,000-crore initial public offer.

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Published on January 24, 2011
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