Recommends government to take up hill station development rather than rope in private developers
Even as the proposal to develop a hill station in Mulshi taluk in the district has been put on hold, the Urban Development Department (UDD) has written a letter to the chief minister to rethink on whether private developers should be allowed to develop hill stations under the Hill Station Policy.
In the letter, the department has stated that there should be consideration for “government-developed hill stations”. The letter states that while developing natural hill stations such as Mahabaleswar and Matheran, the government should take initiative to come up with a development plan itself instead of roping in private parties.
The letter also hints at “profit motive” rather than protecting the environment and says that these private developers are interested only in attracting affluent class. These privately developed hill stations are becoming the enclave of the affluent and it is the government’s responsibility that such hill stations should be enjoyed by all rather than a select lot.
“It is the responsibility of the government to take such initiatives which will in turn protect the rights of the land owners as well as the environment,’’ said a senior UDD official.
Environmentalists have always been against such projects. Recently, an independent committee on the Western Ghats marked this area as ecologically sensitive zone 1 or an area of highest ecological sensitivity. With Mulshi falling under the forest areas of Paud and Wadgaon, the panel’s report recommends that there should be “no special economic zones and no new hill stations” in ESZ 1. The Union ministry of environment and forests is yet to take a final decision on the report.
The state, which in May issued a notification to develop another hill station in Pune’s Mulshi taluk under the Hill Station Policy, has now decided to review the project afresh before granting any permissions. Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Council Vinod Tawde last week demanded that the proposed Rs 2,000-crore hill station be rejected over environmental concerns. On Monday, officials confirmed that Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan had already issued directions earlier this month to put the project on hold.
The project, to be built by Maharashtra Valley View Pvt Ltd, is proposed over 5,900 acres in seven villages of Mulshi. Over the past six years, the company has acquired over 1,200 acres through negotiations with private landowners. Two other proposals under the same private hill station development policy are awaiting the urban development department nod.
The company officials had said they are open for a “re-review of their project.”