MUMBAI: Social activist Medha Patkar has objected to chief minister Prithviraj Chavan’s demand for green nod for the first phase of Lavasa.
The chief minister had requested Union environment minister Jayanti Natarajan to grant environmental clearance to the first phase of the hill city project on November 4. Chavan’s request for approval to the project came hours after the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) filed a criminal complaint against 15 directors of Lavasa for environmental violations under section 15 and 16 of the Environment Protection Act (EPA).
In its order on October 23 this year, the union environment ministry had listed five pre-conditions for granting clearance to the project. Credible action by the state against alleged environment violations committed by Lavasa was one of them. Chavan had sought green nod for the project if all the pre-conditions were fulfilled.
Patkar, who has been at the forefront of the protest against Lavasa, claimed that Chavan’s request amounted to interference in the process of justice. “The matter regarding alleged violations in the project is pending in the Bombay high court. A hearing in the matter is expected to take place on November 16. Chavan’s request for the green nod to the project at such time is unjust and uncalled for,” she added.
Patkar alleged that Chavan’s stand on Lavasa was the result of political bargaining between the Congress and its ally, the NCP. supporter of the hill city project. “Chavan had met Pawar and senior Congress leaders on the same day,” she reasoned. Pawar had called on Congress president Sonia Gandhi on November 3. Speculations that the fate of Lavasa project was discussed during their meeting are rife, even as NCP has said that the Pawar-Sonia meet was a mere courtesy call. Interestingly, following Chavan’s request, NCP union minister Praful Patel also supported the environmental nod for the project.
The state is expected to file an affidavit in the Bombay High Court on the action initiated by it on November 10. Patkar reiterated that a statement from the head of the state at this stage was uncalled for. “MPCB’s complaint against the directors makes it clear that environmental laws were violated. We will protest an attempt to regularize these irregularities post-facto,” she added. Patkar indicated plans of writing to Chavan, Natarajan, and the Congress high command on the issue.
‘Need for permissions’
NCP leader and deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar said on Saturday while the project was important to the state, it needed to be ascertained that it had the necessary permissions.