Centre-state team lands at Lavasa, holds hearings

A 10-member committee formed by the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) under the directives of the Bombay High Court began its crucial site inspection of Lavasa hill city, planned across 25,000 acres in Pune district, on Wednesday.

The committee, led by central expert appraisal committee (EAC) chairman Naresh Dayal, includes three members of the centre's environmental appraisal committee (EAC) and four members of the state EAC, which is led by former bureaucrat P A Hakeem.

Dayal told reporters that the committee would undertake an elaborate exercise to know what steps Lavasa Corporation had initiated to mitigate the alleged environment damage at the project site.

"We will check the construction work and study the efforts made by the company to protect the environmental balance (at the project site)," Dayal said. "We are not here to announce any decision, but will study the project in all its implications and submit the findings to MoEF, which will pass orders as required."

The inspection visit is in keeping with a 21 December 2010 order of the high court. The court had then admitted a petition filed by Lavasa Corp but not granted a stay on the status quo order passed by the MoEF.

A bench of Justices B H Marlapalle and U D Salvi had ruled that the status quo issued by the MoEF on the project work continue. The bench had also directed the MoEF to visit and camp in Lavasa for three days to thoroughly inspect the site before the final order is passed by it.