Env Ministry ready to consider Lavasa if conditions met

New Delhi, Jan 18 (PTI) Providing a ray of hope forLavasa, the Environment Ministry today said it was prepared toconsider the project being constructed near Pune on "merits"subject to fulfilment of certain conditions even as it orderedthat no further construction should be undertaken for now.

The Ministry held that the construction is "unauthorised"involving "environmental degradation" and hence status quoshould be maintained on construction on the Rs 3,000 crorehill project in accordance with the Ministry''s November 25,2010 order prohibiting any work at the site.

At the same time, the Ministry, in an order, said it is"prepared to consider the project on merits with theimposition of various terms and conditions".

It expressed readiness to consider the project "takinginto account all the facts and circumstances of the case,particularly the submissions made with regard to theinvestments already incurred, third party rights which areaccrued, the various steps taken for establishment fo acomprehensive hill station development, the employmentgenerated and the claimed upliftment of the area underconsideration."

The terms and conditions included payment of "substantialpenalty" for the violation of environmental laws, which is"incontrovertible".

Besides the penalty, Lavasa Corporation Limited will haveto create Environmental Restoration Fund (ERF) with"sufficiently large corpus" to be managed by an independentbody with various stakeholders under the overall supervisionof the Ministry of Environment and Forests, the order said.

The Ministry also wants imposition of stringent terms andconditions to ensure that no further environmental degradationtakes place and that any degradation that has already occurredwould be rectified within a time-bound schedule, it said.

The Lavasa would also have to formulate a comprehensiveEnvironmental Impact Assesment (EIA) Report and ManagementPlan for the project.

In its reaction, the Lavasa said a "quick review" oforder indicated that the Ministry''s decision was "more onjurisdicion than on environment issues".

It contended that "no weightage or consideration" hadbeen given to the "huge body of data submitted" by the Lavasaon environment protetion and enhancement initiatives.

The company suggested that a technical team of theMinistry that inspected the site had misrepresented the "stateof affairs" by "amplifying minor faults and ignoring theenvironmental work done" which was "bound to have a negativebearing on the decision of the competent authority".

The Ministry''s team, headed by Naresh Dayal, undertook avisit to the site from January 5 and said no large-scaledestruction of forest had taken place at the controversialsite.

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