A delegation from the Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) began its three-day site inspection of the controversial Lavasa Lake City project near Pune on Wednesday, even as social activist Medha Patkar arrived unexpectedly to demand a fair hearing. The seven-member delegation was led by member-secretary, Naresh Dayal. Accompanied by the ministry’s environment impact assessment advisor, Nalini Bhat and scientist and MoEF director, Bharat Bhushan among other officials, the team was received by Lavasa Corporation president, Rajgopal Nogja, who showed them several hillside areas where construction had taken place.
Lavasa had organised a talk by Mose Valley villagers who spoke of how the project was a boon for them.
The news of Patkar’s arrival triggered excitement and at 2 pm, she marched with a group of adivasis, villagers and activists to the Lavasa International Convention Centre to meet the government delegation.
Speaking to the assembled journalists, she said, “The MoEF team had told us that on day one, they would be carrying out an independent survey of the Lavasa City. However, when we heard that they had spoken to a group of villagers herded together by Lavasa Corporation, we decided that our activists and adivasis needed to be heard too. This is why I decided to make a visit to Lavasa City today.”
On Patkar’s arrival, Dayal and his team cut short the presentation by Lavasa Corporation at the convention centre and stepped out to meet Patkar. The two groups had a half-hour discussion outside the centre as Patkar refused to enter it, saying that most buildings in the project were unauthorised.
Speaking on behalf of the activists, Patkar’s associate, Suniti SR urged the delegation to visit the villages surrounding Dasve, where she alleged large-scale tree cutting and destruction of flora and fauna by Lavasa Corporation.
Suniti alleged that the company was forcibly using excavators on plots of land belonging to poor adivasis and complained that dams had been constructed in Dhaman Ohal area at the very source of a river. A few adivasis spoke next. When Patkar sought to summarise the meeting, Dayal complained of discomfort as he had been standing for half an hour and said he would continue the discussion with the adivasis in Mugaon village on Thursday.
Patkar, who has been leading a campaign against the 25,000 acres Lavasa Lake City project and its promoters, alleging environment norms violations, has sought a judicial inquiry into government approvals for the project.
The ideal picture in my head was filled with highly productive students, living up to every ounce of their potential with the ambient noise lead them to that thesis paper writing service learning space.