The Ministry has established a “disastrous precedent”

The environmental clearance granted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to Lavasa is illegal as the MoEF is not a competent authority to grant the clearance, a petitioner argued during the hearing of the Lavasa matter in the Bombay High Court here on Monday.

Suniti S.R., a petitioner who filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) against the project on behalf of the National Alliance for People's Movement (NAPM), said in an affidavit filed before the court that the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) was the competent authority to deal with environmental clearance.

“The Environment Impact Assessment Notification and the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 does not provide for any such post-facto clearance and what is warranted is the ‘prior' environmental clearance, which the project proponent has failed to seek,” the affidavit stated.

It said that by granting post-facto clearance to Lavasa, the Ministry had established a “disastrous precedent [that] projects don't need a ‘prior' EC [environment clearance]”. It also stated that though Lavasa Corporation violated EIA notification of 1994, 2004 and 2006, the MoEF “deliberately kept silent about the violation of EIA Notification 1994 and 2004.”

Hearing on Jan. 31

Lavasa Corporation and the MoEF are slated to file a reply to the affidavit before the next hearing to be held on January 31, 2012.

Meanwhile, the Division Bench of Justices Sharad Bobde and V.K. Tahilramani asked the petitioners, including the MoEF and Lavasa Corporation, about the jurisdiction of the National Green Tribunal and whether the matter could be transferred there.

In the last hearing more than a fortnight ago, the court asked the petitioners to consider if the cases related to Lavasa Corporation could be transferred to the tribunal.

While Lavasa and the NAPM told the court they would prefer the hearings to continue in the High Court, the MoEF has shown an inclination to approach the green tribunal.

During the hearing, another petitioner told the court that the MoEF had given the nod to the first phase of Lavasa despite it fulfilling only two of the five pre-conditions.