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 an application filed by Lonavala-based NAB Lions Home for Aging Blind against the leading resort and Amusement Company. It was alleged in the application 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. 2015

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