Lavasa – A hill city or a controversial city?

Lavasa City, Lavasa is India’s first hill city since Independence. It will be a very well planned city in the country. Lavasa Corporation Limited (LCL) has taken the initiative of creating this city in response to the Special Regulations for Hill Station Development given by the Government of Maharashtra in 1996.  This city will be for all sections of society not only for the upper section. It is very close to Pune and Mumbai. It is 50 km away from Pune and 180 km away from Mumbai. The project covers approximately 25,000 acres of land. This city will get planned in four phases: Phase I will be operational from 2010 with almost 1,000 villas and 500 apartments. Phase II will begin to develop in this year and will be ready by 2014. Phase III will get ready by 2017 and Phase IV by 2021. But controversies arose regarding the drawing of water from Varasgaon Dam and clearing forest for commercial purposes. Development plans for Lavasa consist of four periods and involves the development of 12 towns spread across 7 hill slopes. The infrastructure of the city will include research centres, Hospitality and tourism, Education, resident population, health care, Space world theme park, Golf academy, Football academy, Hockey academy and many other things.

Primarily the project of development is with Hindustan Construction Company (HCC). The master plan was contributed by HOK, USA. But documents showed that the Lavasa project began with “the Pearly Blue Lake Resorts Pvt Ltd” and Supriya Sule was the shareholder of that company in 2002. She is politically very active and daughter of Sharad Pawar. The shareholding pattern changed in 2004 and in August 2010 because of sale of shares by Sule.

During the period of  March 15, 2003 to September 12, 2006 the Lavasa Corporation did not obtain any clearance, in consequence of this the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest ordered the Lavasa Corporation to stop further construction in November 2010. After this Lavasa Corporation moved to Mumbai High Court against the stay order which was rejected by the honourable court in December 2010.

Issues involved here are – Clearances which the Lavasa Corporation got during the period 2002-2004 because of the shares held by daughter, son-in-law and close associates of Sharad Pawar. So the whole family of politicians is involved in this project which created a lot of controversies. In one interview Pawar revealed that it was he who had identified the site for this project. Hence in our country politics and development of the country should be kept separate. The second controversial issue is about the environmental impact. State government has granted clearance to this project which will have adverse impact on the biodiversity and which is violation of environmental laws. Also if the water from Varasgaon Dam is diverted to Lavasa, it will result in problems in water supply to Pune city. On January 19, 2011, the Indian ministry of environment and forest ruled Lavasa hill-city as illegal, because of environmental issues.

The Lavasa project issue is a clear example of dirty politics. It clearly shows that some politicians have no concern for the environment, people and country; they are only concerned about the profit or money.

Shweta Durge

Image Source: []