Direction given to stop hill-cutting for construction of a resort-cum-hotel at Lonavala

National Green Tribunal (NGT): While restraining Kumar Resorts,
Amusement Pvt. Ltd. and Dhiraj Kumar Infrastructure India Pvt. Ltd. from
hill-cutting for constructing a resort-cum hotel on a hill top at Lonavala, NGT
also directed the developers to pay a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the
National Association for the Blind’s (NAB) welfare home. The said developers
were constructing a resort-cum-hotel on a hill top at Lonavala and were
allegedly causing environmental degradation and also endangering property of a
welfare home for ageing blind located adjacent to the construction site. NGT
also imposed a cost of Rs 5 lakh on the developers for illegal hill cutting and
excavation of minor minerals that posed a potential threat of landslides,
mudslides and damage to the welfare home. The Tribunal’s order came on a
petition filed by Lonavala-based NAB Lions Home for Aging Blind against the
leading resort and Amusement Company. It was alleged in the petition that Kumar
Resorts acquired the adjoining plot on eastern side of the welfare home and the
developers intended to construct a resort and a big hotel at the hilltop. It
was further alleged that leveling of land by flattening of the hill area and
cutting of trees by the developers could lead to soil erosion,
landslides/mudslides, which posed a threat of damage to the welfare home
property and the lives of its residents. During the course of proceedings, NGT
appointed an expert committee, which found the claims to be true. “The expert
committee perused record of rights and other records. The committee came to the
conclusion that the hill has been privately and clandestinely cut and,
therefore, prime concern now is prevention of landslides/mudslides,” the
Tribunal observed. While awarding the compensation, Tribunal also warned the
developers of sealing and selling off their premises if they fail to make the
payment within the stipulated period. “The Revenue Officers like Collector and
Commissioner, may call report from the local Municipal Council of Khandala and
Lonavala and like places such as Satara, Kolhapur etc. where existence of hills
ordinarily are noticeable in order to avoid instances of hill-cutting, being
undertaken under guise of obtaining extraction permission for minor mineral and
direct them not to issue permissions for construction on top of the hills,
except for Bamboo huts/cottages,” NGT added in its order, [NAB Lions Home for
Aging Blind v. Kumar Resorts, 2015 SCC OnLine NGT 6, decided on May 26.
Source: Legal news India

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