Mumbai/Bangalore: Lavasa Corp. Ltd has withdrawn two of its petitions against the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) and wants to pursue the matter with it directly.
One of the petitions is against the showcause notice for ‘stop-work’ and the second one was against the ministry’s Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) report.
Lavasa is India’s first hill city covering 20,000 acres in the Western Ghats near Pune in Maharashtra and has seen an investment of Rs4,000 crore so far. Hindustan Construction Co. Ltd holds a 64.9% stake in Lavasa, with the Avantha Group having 16%, Venkateshwara Hatcheries Group 12.79% and a private investor 12.79%.
On 25 November, MoEF asked Lavasa Corp. to prove within 15 days that it did not violate environmental norms in its hill city project, stalling construction at the site.
The petitions are being heard by a division bench headed by Justice Ranjana Desai and Rajesh G. Ketkar in the Bombay high court.
Mukul Rohatgi, senior counsel for Lavasa Corp., said on Wednesday that the company wanted to deal directly with the ministry and not go through the court in this matter.
“It’s a conscious decision by us to withdraw these petitions because I have lost Rs300 crore already due to the ‘stop-work’ and if this case goes on in court, chances are that I will lose another Rs500 crore,” Rohatgi said.
Justice Desai said that the court would not express any view in the matter and that the withdrawal of petitions doesn’t mean that it has decided in favour of the developer.
Meanwhile, the minutes of a March meeting of the EAC suggested that, based on the information made available by the government of Maharashtra, “the EAC recommends that in view of the investments made by the third parties, infrastructure already created in the Dasve village and taking note of the reported hardships highlighted repeatedly by LCL (Lavasa Corp. Ltd) of the construction workers, pending construction work of 257 buildings, which are above plinth level, may be allowed subject to” conditions.
These stipulate that no hill cutting, digging, excavation, or any other activity involving generation of soil or its use or its transportation/ disposal will be carried out and that a high-level Verification and Monitoring Committee will be constituted with the inclusion of eminent experts, representatives of MoEF and district administration etc.
It was also observed in the meeting that substantial development had already taken place on about 700 hectares.
However, for the remaining area where construction is yet to take place, there is still a chance to examine analyze, review and correct the entire model of development in the right environmental perspective, the minutes of the meeting stated.
“We need to talk to Lavasa before we take a final decision. It is a long process and it would take time,” said Darius Khambatta, counsel for MoEF. “The EAC observations have suggested that MoEF should modify its earlier order and give permission of partial construction provided they adhere to the five points.”