NAPM’s PIL against Lavasa on Environmental Violations has been found true in the EAC report submitted to the Mumbai High Court
Lavasa admitted to the High Court that it has flouted environmental Laws
High Court refused to lift stop work order of MoEF against Lavasa and maintained the Status Quo
Pune, March 31, A PIL challenging Lavasa’s Environment Clearance by NAPM and others in Mumbai High Court has stood true. Yesterday, in a momentous hearing of Lavasa’s Writ Petition against the MoEF in Mumbai high court, Lavasa counsels admitted that the company has flouted environmental norms under the Environment Protection Act 1986. Hence, it is willing to withdraw its petition against the Ministry’s show cause notice issued on November 25th, 2010. However, when the court refused to intervene and lift MoEF’s stop work order which has been causing the guilty company huge financial losses, Lavasa counsel took a re-turn to maintain their PIL against the MoEF.
NAPM welcomes the decision of Mumbai High Court in this regard. This will be considered as a victory of dispossessed poor people who have otherwise very little to claim anywhere especially when the fight is against Lavasa (an HCC project), the economically and politically mighty company. NAPM also maintains that Lavasa should not be allowed any post-facto clearance as there is no such provision in the EPA, 1986 and moreover any such attempt of MoEF will be perceived as an easy get away by the corporate world for further environmental violations.
MoEF’s had filed the affidavit on Lavasa in Bombay HC on March 25th. The expert appraisal committee (EAC), which examined the hill project earlier this month, had re-inforced the earlier charges made by both NAPM and the ministry, it also suggested that the project’s remaining portions may have to be drastically altered to bring them into line with the law if ever they will be allowed to reinstate construction.
Moreover, any kind of soil work whether it is excavation, digging or exploding will have to be undertaken under a high level monitoring committee. The committee will have representatives from the centre and state. The EAC upholded the rights of the project affected by indicating that Lavasa has to compensate the people who have been displaced. The MoEF is putting together a corpus which the company has to take into account while compensating for the displaced houses.
The EAC affidavit maintained that Lavasa had avoided seeking the required environmental clearance from the MoEF under the guise of Maharashtra Hill Station Policy, which does not jurisdict the State of Maharashtra to grant environment clearance for such kind of projects.
In February Lavasa has applied for fresh environment clearance to the MoEF for the first phase of the project after the ministry had held that the project was unauthorised and had directed the company to maintain status quo at the site.
However, NAPM asserts that Lavasa should not be allowed to reinstate its work by any means as it has knowingly avoided seeking all liable permissions for altering the geography of Mose valley. We also assert that the EPA should be upheld as it has been in other such cases and post- facto clearance should not be considered when the Ministry’s EAC has agreed that Lavasa has caused irreversible damage to the ecology of Mose valley. Any attempt to regularise the project by charging a minimum penalty and restructuring the project will be mere an eyewash exercise and the area like Mose Valley which forms an important backwaters basin for the Warasgaon Dam and ecologically sensitive Western Ghats will only perish due to such massive environmentally destructive privatization.
We also demand a state level thorough enquiry from the Maharashtra government as per the order of the Ministry of Environment and Forests. In this regard a letter on March 27 has been sent to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra following the discussions held and promises made by the CM to call for a comprehensive independent enquiry.
Call for an independent enquiry into all the issues related to many irregularities conducted by the Lavasa, flouting various laws and legislations and the haste indicating the fraud in giving clearances to the Project by the state government.
A detailed enquiry is must especially related to ceiling land, forest land, MKVDC land and other government land transfers. Permissions to excavate hills for stones and running stone crushing units, constructions at upper hills without permission, building private dams and using backwaters for water sports without permission.
Lavasa has been found guilty of excavation without the permission; has not paid the royalty dues; and has been using Warasgaon backwaters for water sports without the authorised permission; built structures on slopes and hills flouting several norms. An independent expert’s enquiry should be called immediately on these.
In this context, we demand from the MoEF and State of Maharashtra that no decision to allow Lavasa to continue work be taken till all these facts and evidences are brought before the public domain, violations admitted and due legal actions initiated.
For National Alliance of People’s Movement
Medha Patkar Suniti S R Vishwambhar Choudhary Rifat Mumtaz
Prasad Baghve Dyaneshwar Shedge Thumabai Walhekar Leelabai Margale