Mumbai: Observing that the project nods were given without environmental and cabinet approvals, the Comptroller & Auditor General (CAG) has rapped the Maharashtra government for "total lack of transparency" in the selection of the Lavasa hill station project in Pune district.
"We have brought out total lack of transparency in selection of the project proponent. Granting of SPA( special planning authority) status to Lavasa Corporation Limited (LCL) without any control by the Government left scope for irregularities, perceived conflict of interest and violation of environmental laws," it said.
Though the government was required to supervise the activities of LCL, they did not do so, CAG said in its report for the year ended March 31, 2011, which was today tabled by the deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar in the council.
In the absence of any public purpose being served, exemptions and concessions given to LCL were unwarranted and not in the public interest, it said.
"The state government at the highest level and its agencies at executive/implementation level went out of its way to facilitate a single project with scant regard for ensuring compliance to its own conditions laid down for the project and distributing the already ecologically fragile environment," the report said.
The policy decision of the State government to develop hill station type areas in the state with private participation was not achieved and it appears that the regulations framed and amendments to existing laws and procedures made by the state government were propelled by private interests for setting up the Lavasa project alone, the report said.
The CAG has also made six recommendations to the government before giving the final nod to the hill station development project.
"The government may consider conducting a feasibility study to identify locations so that hill station development is uniform and balanced throughout Maharashtra, ensure transparency in selection of project proponents and review the policy of granting SPA status to private agencies," it said.
It sought evolving a suitable mechanism for effective monitoring of compliance to various environmental laws, restricting grant of exemption and concessions which have revenue implications only in cases where public purpose is served and undertaking a social cost benefit analysis of the Lavasa Project.
The amendments which diluted well-established government procedures were made to ensure that LCL had a free hand to develop the project to serve its own commercial interests at the cost of public interest, the CAG report stated.
"The government had no knowledge of sub-lease of land by LCL to private agencies on long term basis. Requisite permissions of government/collector were not obtained by LCL for purchase of tribal land," the report said.