Ministry order more about jurisdiction than environment, says Lavasa

Our Bureau Mumbai | Updated on January 19, 2011

Reacting to the Ministry of Environment and Forests' final order that the EIA notification 1994, 2004 and 2006 were applicable to Lavasa Corporation, Lavasa said the order focuses more on jurisdiction than on the environment issue at hand.

Lavasa said the order states that “the Maharashtra State Government does not have authority to give the 2001 and 2004 clearances, besides stating that the Maharashtra State Government's Hill Stations policy of 1996 should be reviewed.”

The indication is that the key issue is over jurisdiction between the State and the Centre and not on the environment issue.

Clause 3.78 in the report appears to indicate that MoEF is accepting that its EIA notification of 2006 is “wrong and it need to re-look at critical aspects.” Here again, pointers are that Environment is still an emerging subject/science and needs detailed deliberation and re-think.

Alleging that the Ministry did not have objective and measurable norms, Lavasa said that instead of restricting itself to environmental issues, MoEF had resorted to questioning State Government jurisdiction, Special Planning Authority, MKVDC land transfer, Land purchase, Lavasa Master Plan approval by the Collector, Hill Station Policy and Regional Development Plan among others. These have nothing to do with the environmental issues which the High Court had directed them to study.

The State Government has given environmental clearance for 2,000 hectares to Lavasa in 2004. In August 2009, Lavasa applied to the MoEF for environmental clearance under their 2006 Notification for project expansion of 3,000 hectares. Despite submitting all relevant documents the Ministry was yet to accord clearance. The current Ministry order too was “conveniently silent” on the delay.

No weightage or consideration had been given to the voluminous data submitted on environment protection and enhancement initiatives, which included laboratory test reports from MoEF-approved laboratories and the visual evidence shown during the site visit.

The entire focus of the technical committee report is on the “legality of jurisdiction and application of notification” rather than on the environment enhancement and protection work done.

Mr Naresh Dayal, Chairman, Technical Committee, after visiting Lavasa told the media in Pune that there was no major environmental degradation, Lavasa pointed out.

Any road under construction in hilly regions requires cutting which look harsh initially. Reference photographs included in the report only show such roads in the early stages of construction and which were only about 5 km in length. It has conveniently kept out the photographs of over 100 km of roads that have been completed with slope stabilisation and enhanced green cover.

The entire process of restoration and enhancement of the ecology of the place which was substantially denuded to begin with, was presented to the committee and even demonstrated at site. It has neither been acknowledged nor appreciated, Lavasa felt.

Finally, Lavasa Corporation said legal counsels were studying the order and would explore all options available.

Published on January 19, 2011

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