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Building blocks before Lavasa Hill City

Submitted by on Monday, 20 December 2010No Comment

THE PROJECT

Lavasa is a hill city being developed by Lavasa Corporation Ltd sprawled over 25,000 acres in the Sahyadri Hills of the Western Ghats, near Pune. It will comprise five towns (Dasve, Mugaon, Dhamanohol, Sakhari-Wadavali and a Central Business District) with apartments and villas facing the valley and the lake, and a golf course. It will also include hotels, adventure sport facilities, spas, clubs, office space and convention centres. The company says it will be different from Aamby Valley, the 10,000-acre township by Sahara India Pariwar, in that Lavasa offers not only luxury apartments but also condominiums starting at Rs 27 lakh.

ROOTS

The idea was floated by NCP chief Sharad Pawar, who saw a need for a modern hill station as India had not developed one since Independence. The project started under the banner of The Lake City Corporation Pvt Ltd that later changed to Lavasa Corporation Ltd. Purchase of land

started in 2002.

BUILDERS & PLANNERS

The company claims to have pumped in Rs 3,000 crore so far. The major stake is with Hindustan Construction Company (64.99%); promoters include Avantha Realty Ltd, Venkateshwara Hatcheries, and Pune-based investor Vithal Maniar. Master plan developed by design consultant HOK, United States.

LEADERS

Sharad Pawar’s daughter, MP Supriya Sule, and her husband Sadanand Sule had a minor stake in the company from 2002 but withdrew after January 2006 following allegations that the stakeholders’ profile was responsible for the speed at which the project was getting clearances. Aniruddha Deshpande, a builder close to Pawar, too sold his stake. Other close associates of the Pawar family, such as Maniar, Avantha Realty and Venkateshwara Hatcheries Ltd remain stakeholders.

CONTROVERSIES

These began with the land acquisition process, with protests coming from tribal residents (including Dhangar, Koli, Thakar and Katkari) of the 18 villages the project will span.

This later snowballed into a mammoth controversy

about political links, undue favours, violation of environmental norms and many other things.

One PIL challenges the transfer of 141.15 hectares of land belonging to the Maharashtra Krishna Valley Development Corporation to Lavasa Corporation, on the grounds that this land was meant for rehabilitation of families displaced by the Varasgaon Dam and not for private use. The MKVDC was then headed by Sharad Pawar’s nephew Ajit Pawar.

GREEN ISSUES

Medha Patkar’s group NAPM has alleged that:

During 2002-2003 alone, the project got 31 no-objection certificates at lightning speed

Lakhs of trees were chopped for the construction

The project was exempted from paying stamp fees for transfer of land; these could be in the range Rs 1,000- 5,000 crore

The company had paid no royalty for extraction and use of minor minerals

The government took three days to acquire and transfer land to Lavasa, though it had been idle since 1975 when it was to acquire 912 acres of…

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