Environment ministry Committee seeks details of Lavasa’s special status

The environment ministry’s expert body, which was initially in favor of letting Lavasa complete 257 buildings under construction, has now deferred any decision on the project. It noted that Lavasa has changed its plans for this ‘under construction’ area through its ‘Special Planning Authority’ status and that the Bombay High Court has asked for a hearing on the matter in June.

According to Maharashtra laws, Lavasa Hill City has been given the status of a ‘Spcial Planning Authority’, which gives the project a large degree of freedom to determine and change its building plans. It is the only such project to get the status in Maharashtra, according to media reports.

“The Expert Appraisal Committee recommended for completion of 257 residential units in 613.94 hectares [out of a total of 2,000 hectares in Phase 1] as per the revised layout plan approved by the Dist. Collector, Pune for a built up area of 2.47 lakh square metres.

“Subsequently, the layout approved by Collector, Pune was revised by Special Planning Authority (SPA) for 681.27 ha (613.94 ha + 67.33 ha) with a total built-up area of 4.56 [lakh] square metres,” the Expert Appraisal Committee — second only to the environment minister Jairam Ramesh — noted in its latest sitting.

The Committee seemed surprised with the move by the company to amend its plans for the 613 hectares on which the 257 buildings stood, for which it had already recommended a lifting of the stop-work order. With the sitting, its recommendation to let Lavasa complete the construction in the 613 hectares has been cancelled.

On the issue of the company’s Special Planning Authority changing the ‘Collector approved’ construction plan, the Committee suggested to the environment minister Jairam Ramesh to ask Maharashtra state government about the exact powers given to the Authority.

“The Committee also observed that Ministry may ask the State Government of Maharashtra regarding the compliance of Lavasa Corporation with the.. Process of approvals by Special Planning Authority and submission to the State Government .. [and the] functioning of Lavasa Corporation Special Planning Authority vis-à-vis applicable regulations,” it added.

The Committee also urged the environment ministry to find out details about “various approvals [required by Lavasa] specially relating to water availability in the down stream areas.. permissibility of any construction on Maharashtra Krishna Valley Development Corporation land leased to Lavasa Corporation… [and] on the requirement of Non-Agriculture approval for layout and building plan even of approved by Special Planning Authority.”

It also noted that the Bombay High Court has asked the parties to come back for a hearing on the subject in June.

“In view of the foregoing, the Committee decided the proposals of 681.27 ha be deferred and be considered along with the whole proposal of 2000 ha (First phase) after the submission of complete information,” it noted.

In an earlier meeting, it was submitted that Lavasa had completed work on 131 buildings and 257 are under construction, out of a total of around 935 residential buildings.