A group of people protests against Patkar and Hazare
Lavasa witnessed hectic activity on Thursday as the Central team met the affected people and activists protesting against the “irregularities” in the project.
Social worker Anna Hazare and Prakash Ambedkar of Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh pledged support to the cause led by National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM).
Addressing the team members from the Union Ministry of Environments and Forests, Mr. Hazare said that according to him, the social aspect of environment was of utmost importance. “I don't think Lavasa Corporation Ltd (LCL) is an organisation meant for the uplift of the poor. It works for its own benefits,” he said.
Mr Hazare raised questions as to why environmental permissions sought by LCL had been given swiftly. He reiterated his position about the danger that Pune would face with the number of dams built within the Warasgaon dam, affecting water supply in Pune.
“This was not Gandhiji's idea of India. He said develop villages first and then the cities, not create new cities in place of villages,” Mr Hazare said.
Ms. Medha Patkar said that Lavasa should not be treated just as a project but as a model. “Future development depends on this. I hope you have come with the view and the commitment towards the right kind of development paradigm,” she said.
“The rule of law is crushed in this whole project,” she stated and accused the State Government of “ad hocism” while giving permissions to the hill city. “Compensatory afforestation should have been followed, instead of the hydro-seeding projects they have undertaken,” Ms. Patkar said.
Members of the team Director of MoEF Bharat Bhushan, scientist Nalini Bhat and State Expert Appraisal Committee chairperson P.A. Hakeem then visited various “spots” in Lavasa, where Ms. Patkar and her associates Suniti S.R. and Vishwambar Choudhari alleged that environmental laws had been violated.
Ms. Suniti said that “NASA point” was situated at a height of more than 1000 metres, thus making it necessary for a central permission. She also pointed out other developments in the city, which were allegedly over 100 metres.
“Sewage from the city will flow into the reservoir from where people used to get drinking water. How is this justified?” she asked.
Meanwhile, a group of people led by former MP Ashok Mohol protested against Ms. Patkar and Mr. Hazare, stating that they wanted their villages to be developed.
Ms. Patkar said: “I am not saying don't touch anything. But it could have been done in a legal way. Eco-tourism could have involved local people too. But the MoEF team will have to take a stand. This sort of skewed development cannot go on.”
A statement issued by LCL, said: “We are hopeful that the MOEF team will also take notice of the sincere plea over the last two days, supporting Lavasa, made by people from 18 villages in Lavasa and take an objective view of the unsubstantiated claims made by political activists. Over the last two days, Lavasa Corporation has submitted to the MOEF committee over 10,000 pages of technical and statistical data and clarifications sought, detailing environmental initiatives, developmental activities and various State and Central approvals obtained by the company while developing the project.”