No luck for Lavasa as MoEF takes tough stand

Dealing a blow to the 'Lavasa hill city' planned near Pune, Jairam Ramesh's ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) has decided against permitting construction work to continue at the site till at least 31 December, when it will take a final call on the issue and place its decision before the Bombay High Court.

On 7 December, the high court had stayed the status quo notice issued by the MoEF to Lavasa Corporation Ltd asking it to stop construction on the site of its Rs3,000 crore project. Lavasa's main grouse is that it received a show cause notice without being heard.

The court had also directed the environment ministry to hear out Lavasa on the show cause notice on 9 December, and wanted its report by 16 December.

The MoEF's interim order says no work on site can continue. It lists at least seven cases where Lavasa has violated development control rules, affecting the world-famous biodiversity of the Western Ghats.

The MoEF had slapped a show-cause notice on Lavasa Corp because it had failed to secure necessary environmental clearance before starting work on its upcoming 25,000 acre lake city township. It said that environment impact assessment is a must for the project.

Hindustan Construction Company (HCC) chairman Ajit Gulabchand, the promoter of Lavasa Corporation Ltd, had recently met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the stop-work notice. However, the prime minister reportedly refused to intervene.