‘Lavasa didn`t need environmental clearance’

Lavasa Corporation told the Bombay High Court that it did not need to take environmental clearances from the Centre.

Mumbai: Lavasa Corporation on Friday told the
Bombay High Court that it did not need to take environmental
clearances from the Centre, because its lake city near Pune
was a "tourism project" and not a township.

Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) on the
other hand, alleged that Lavasa Corp was fully aware that it
needed clearances, but still "brazenly" continued its

On November 25, MOEF issued a show-cause notice to
Lavasa, demanding an explanation as to why it did not obtain
clearances as per rules under Environment Protection Act,
amended by notifications in 1994 and 2004.

MOEF also asked the corporation, which is developing a
hill station across 5000 hectares in Mulshi taluka of Pune
district, to stop the ongoing constructions.

Lavasa`s lawyer, senior counsel Shekhar Nafade, argued
that company has invested Rs 6,000 crore in the project, and
MOEF`s issuing of notice without giving hearing was a
"high-handed" action.

Division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and S J
Kathawala, however, did not vacate the stay today, as the
arguments would continue on December 6.

Advocate Nafade said that construction at Lavasa began
in 2004, but MOEF issued notice only last month. "When we
asked the state government, it told us that environmental
clearances were not necessary because it was a tourism
project," he said.

Nafade alleged that notice came to be issued only
after some social activists, represented by National Alliance
of People`s Movements, made a complaint to the environment
minister. "This is a case of appeasing political activists,"
he said.

"What about public sector banks? (who have lent loans
for the project)," he asked.

The division bench too asked Additional Solicitor
General Darius Khambata why MOEF was late in sending the

Khambata said that when MOEF came to know about
alleged violations was not the issue, but "when did they
(Lavasa) know (that clearances were necessary)" was the issue.

"They brazenly went on with the construction, though
admittedly they had no environmental clearance," he said.
The burden to prove that project was not harming the
environment was on Lavasa, he added.

Further, Khambata said that MOEF was ready to give
hearing to Lavasa at the earliest, and would pass order before
December 31.

Meanwhile, Alliance of People`s Movements, which has
already filed a PIL against Lavasa, today demanded that it be
allowed to intervene in Lavasa`s petition.

"The court has now clubbed the PIL with Lavasa`s
case," said APM`s lawyer advocate Y P Singh.