Almost five months since having declared that Lavasa's hill city project near Pune violated the Environment Protection Act, the Union Environment Ministry has finally told the Maharashtra government to take “necessary action” against the company.
In a letter to the State government on Friday, the Ministry said Lavasa had started development and construction work on 681 hectares of land without obtaining the necessary prior environmental clearance.
It asked the Maharashtra government to initiate necessary action and inform the Ministry “at the earliest”.
As the letter mentions, these violations were pointed out in a show-cause notice issued on November 25 last year and the final directions issued on January 17.
It is not clear why the Ministry had not ordered the State to take further action against the company at the time.
Demolition not ordered
While the Act allows for action to the extent of the demolition of the violating constructions — as, for instance, was ordered against the Adarsh Housing Society building — the Ministry, in its January order, had only chosen to impose a fine on Lavasa and told the company to set up an Environmental Restoration Fund.
It had also told the company to apply anew for an environmental clearance and promised that the fresh application would be considered on its merits.
The Expert Appraisal Committee, which evaluated the application, recommended, in its report, that the first phase — comprising 2,000 hectares — of the project be granted an environmental clearance subject to a series of conditions, including a commitment that five per cent of the total cost of the project be earmarked for a corporate social responsibility programme.