26 more Lavasas possible in Maharashtra, he says

Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar has hit out at green activists for “obstructing development” while batting for the idea of lake-cities such as Lavasa in Maharashtra.

He said 26 more unpopulated sites near water bodies could be developed on similar lines.

Showering praise on the controversial lake city, which was developed by the Hindustan Construction Company (HCC), Mr. Pawar said, “Lavasa has good schools, and good international colleges. About 10,000 tourists visit the place every weekend. It is possible to develop 26 more such sites as excellent tourist centres like the ones in England.” He was speaking at a public function in Pune on Monday night.

In a statement that irked environmental activists, Mr. Pawar said: “There are sites with ample water bodies with no population and vacant land that can be developed as tourist sites.” There were “elements opposed to development,” he said, adding the negative campaign against Lavasa should not be given publicity by the media.

Mr. Pawar has been a supporter of the lake city, and is in fact responsible for the selection of the site. He has said that he, along with Ajit Gulabchand of the HCC, had zeroed in on the site during a helicopter ride across the Western Ghats near Pune. Mr. Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule owned a stake in the HCC which she sold eventually.

The lake city came under the scanner of the Environment Ministry for flouting rules, after which work was halted for more than a year.

Unfortunate

Condemning Mr. Pawar’s statement, Suniti SR of the National Alliance of people’s Movements (NAPM) said it was unfortunate.

“Lavasa has not followed any policy for rehabilitation or for the protection of the Western Ghats. It is unfortunate to say that 26 more sites should be developed like this,” Ms. Suniti told The Hindu.