Mr. Dayal’s statement on Lavasa’s impact pre-mature and questionable
NAPM awaits comprehensive assessment and report by Expert Committee
The statement made by Shri Naresh Dayal, Chairperson of the Expert Committee appointed by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, following the Committee’s visit to the Lavasa Hill City, as reported by the media is not just shocking, but appears to be dubious. Mr. Dayal has apparently given a clean-chit to Lavasa mainly on two issues
- Impact on forests and environment
- Impact on the water supply to Pune city
The NAPM would like to express its total disagreement with the statement made by the Chairperson alone, without substantiating it with any facts and figures and against the propriety of a high-level official Committee, involving both central and state officials and appointed pursuant to the directives of the Mumbai High Court.
NAPM has already made presentations before MoEF and submitted a number of documents to prove that Lavasa is not only without the clearance which was supposed to have been sought from the Union Ministry, but is being pushed with serious impact on the Warasgaon dam reservoir and the catchment as well as the forest and deemed forest areas in the Mose river valley falling in the fragile eco system of the Western Ghats. Mr. Dayal has not addressed this issue, which the Committee and MoEF cannot dodge, but will have to address. That would decide the fate of Lavasa, with its construction planned and actualized, beyond 20,000 sq. mts with investment of thousands of crores.
It is interesting to note that Mr. Dayal was in fact absent during the visit to the reservoir catchment and Mugaon village; site observations at Gadale dam in the Mose river-bed and at the NASA point (Sy. No. 27-28), where the land falls in forest and deemed forest areas. All his Committee members witnessed the huge cutting of hills, mountains, with blasting, drainage being deposited into the river / reservoir and roads as well as other structures built with massive clear felling of generations-old tree cover. They could not have over-looked the construction carried out in the reservoir land of 141 hectares under waters transferred from the state agency (Krishna Valley Development Corporation) to a private agency (Lavasa Corporation) and very close to the reservoir itself. All this and much more cannot be ignored since it involves serious violation of conditions, even by the state authorities, such as no construction within 50 mts of a water-body, which itself was a deviation from the normal rile of 100 mts. The so-called environmental clearance granted by the state department also had asked Lavasa to ensure a safe buffer zone between the forest and project area, which is also violated.
Secondly, Mr Dayal’s statement concluding that there would be no impact on Pune’s water supply goes against the official records itself which state that 10% of Warasgaon dam waters are diverted to Lavasa. It may be noted that Pune’s city-dwellers received only 3 days water supply a week, even during last monsoon and hence the inadequacy cannot be estimated. It is also note worthy that the consent of the Pune Municipal Corporation was not sought for diversion of water to a private corporation, at the cost of one and a half the water supply to its constituency and with amending the initial agreement related to Warasgaon dam. The overall activities including tree and hill cutting and construction in the immediate catchment has certainly affected and will further affect the dam project. Any environmentalist, ecologist or even the local villagers would endorse this. All these and other issues were presented before the Committee by affected villagers Dnyaneshwar Bhikule, Dnyaneshwar Shedge, Thumabai Walekar, Leelabai Margale, Nikitabai and social activists Suniti S.R., Vishwambhar Chowdhury, Medha Patkar, Anna Hazare and Prakash Ambedkar.
NAPM has constantly studied the Environment Protection Act and Forest Conservation Act and has assessed Lavasa’s work involving a number of violations of the same. Much of this was already pointed out by the Ministry as a reason for issuing stop-work orders and a notice on 25thNovember, asking Lavasa to show case as to why the construction on the land should not be demolished.
It is known by now that Lavasa is a delicate politico-economic issue and hence any decision related to the same will have to be substantiated by solid facts. The Expert Committee of MoEF will have to explain the statement of Mr. Dayal on a scientific and legal basis. We would,, therefore, wait and watch the further decision and actions by the MoEF as well as by the High Court of Mumbai.
NAPM states with pain and anguish that Mr. Dayal’s statement cannot be taken as a scientific and comprehensive one, based on serious research, data and documents as is expected of any such high-level Committee, which can be only after all the Central and state members of the Committee fully apply their mind and analyze all the existing data and documents.
NAPM has also raised and considered the issues of violation of revenue loss and land rights of the local population, including adivasis, nomadic tribes and marginalized farmers. This includes diversion of ceiling land (600+ hectares), purchase and transfer of adivasi lands, handing over of land under the reservoir acquired for the dam (public purpose) to Lavasa, a private a corporation. The issue of Lavasa obtaining the status of a Special Planning Authority, in spite of being a private corporate body is in itself a violation of law and the Constitution. All of these are partly investigated and admitted in the Report of the Principal Secretary, Revenue in 2009 and will have to be further investigated as also will have to be presented before the judicial authorities.
The MoEF, through Additional Solicitor General has sought the postponement of the date for the Ministry’s decision from 10thto 17thJanuary. Any decision by the Expert Committee and MoEF, if made on political and neither legal nor constitutional basis will discredit the Ministry and can become a barrier in it playing the role of protector of environment against the perpetrators of offences such as Lavasa City Corporation. NAPM shall continue to strive for justice and rule of law.
For National Alliance of People’s Movements
Prasad Bagve Suhas Kolhekar Dnyaneshwar Shedge,
Thumabai Valhekar Leelabai Margale
Ph:09423571784 / 020-24251404 / 09423965153
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