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Environment ministry withholds green nod, Lavasa cries foul

Lavasa Corporation rejected the contention of the environment ministry, dubbing its order as “highly discriminatory and unjust” and its chairman Ajit Gulabchand wanted prime minister Manmohan Singh to intervene

New Delhi: In a fresh blow to Lavasa, the environment ministry on Friday refused to grant green clearance to the first phase of the ambitious hill city project near Pune contending that all the pre-conditions were not met, reports PTI.

Lavasa Corporation rejected the contention of the environment ministry, dubbing its order as “highly discriminatory and unjust” and its chairman Ajit Gulabchand wanted prime minister Manmohan Singh to intervene.

The ministry in its order yesterday said that the Maharashtra government was yet to take credible action against Lavasa for violation of the Environment Protection Act and clearance for the first phase of the 2,000 hectare project cannot be granted.

“As the pre-condition on the credible action on violation of EIA Notification, 2006 has not been complied with, the ministry is unable to issue the environmental clearance to the first phase of Hill City project (2000 hectares) of M/s LCL,” the ministry said.

“The final decision on the environmental clearance cannot be taken till all the pre-conditions are met including credible action by the state government of Maharashtra and subject to the final orders of the High Court of Bombay as the matter is sub-judice,” the order said.

The ministry had laid down five pre-conditions, as suggested by the Expert Appraisal Committee, for Lavasa to comply with before grant of environment clearance.

These conditions include demarcation of land usage which includes open spaces, diverting 5% of its expenses for Corporate Social Responsibility, creation of an Environment Restoration Fund, which in turn will be monitored by a Verification and Monitoring Committee and a submission by the company that violations would not be repeated.

In a statement, Lavasa said it had complied with all the pre-conditions it was supposed to fulfil and that the refusal to give clearance was ‘delaying tactics’.

“To suggest that the state government of Maharashtra has not yet taken action is not a good enough reason for delaying grant of EC, to such a large and important project, under development for last seven years,” the Lavasa statement said.

The first condition related to government of Maharashtra taking credible action against Lavasa for alleged violation of the Environment Protection Act.

The state government had written to the Union environment ministry seeking clarification on the issue citing that the matter was before the high court.

Mr Gulabchand in a letter to the environment minister on 15th June stated that the company had complied with all the pre-conditions except the one linked to the Maharashtra government.

The ministry also refused to accept Mr Gulabchand’s contention before environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan that construction had begun in some other projects prior to obtaining environmental clearance.

It pointed out that while the projects cited by Mr Gulabchand were being built on land sizes between half-a-hectare and three ha, Lavasa project was coming up on 2,000 ha of land.

The ministry’s new order came after Bombay High Court last month directed it to pass the final order on regularisation application of the Lavasa Corporation with regard to constructions at township project near Pune in three weeks.

Mr Gulabchand told reporters it is ready to restructure the Rs 3,000-crore project and would seek the Prime Minister’s intervention to save it.

“Now, our objective is to get clearance, if not from the government, then from the courts and then move forward to restructure the whole project,” Mr Gulabchand told reporters in Mumbai.

Last November, the then Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh had stalled the 2,000-hectare project for causing severe damages to the environment.

The matter is pending with the Bombay High Court since then. The next hearing of the Lavasa case is on 18th October. On 23rd September, the court had directed the Union ministry to pass the final order on the application of Lavasa in three weeks.

Accusing the ministry of using discriminatory criteria in this project by laying down pre-conditions for the first time, Mr Gulabchand said, he is caught between the state government and the Union ministry.

“We have made large investment in Lavasa and losing around Rs 2crore per day, since the past 11 months. The delay will also render 10,000 workers out of jobs. Additionally, 2,000 third-party contracts have also been affected,” he said.

The entire Lavasa project has been mired in controversy with the ministry alleging that required clearances were not taken and the magnitude of environmental degradation caused by construction activities has been too large.

Mr Gulabchand claimed the project has complied with all the pre-conditions it was supposed to fulfil and that the refusal to give clearance is ‘delaying tactics’.

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Changing the face of movie marketing in India

Eros International and Red Chillies announce brand tie-ups worth Rs52 crore for Ra.One

Eros International Media Ltd (Eros International), India’s largest integrated film studio along with Red Chillies Entertainment are set to release Shah Rukh Khan’s most ambitious project Ra.One this festive season on 26 October 2011. The countdown to the film’s release marks the culmination of one of the biggest marketing blitzkrieg for any Indian film ever, embarked upon by Eros and Shah Rukh Khan with brand tie-ups to the tune of Rs52 crore.

The country’s biggest brand SRK and leading film studio Eros have come together, jointly exploiting the film’s potential and additional revenue streams making Ra.One the first of its kind landmark film. Expected to be India’s best marketed film with a 360 degree global campaign and a record number of brands on board, the marketing spends on Ra.One have been  subsidized considerably through major brand tie-ups in excess of 25 brands. These include Sony PlayStation, YouTube, Nerolac, McDonald’s, Western Union Money Transfer, UTV Indiagames, Videocon, Nokia, Coke, ESPN Star Sports and Cinthol amongst others.

Eros International and Red Chillies have already recovered a major portion of their investments through in-film branding, media endorsements and through pre-licensing cable and satellite rights, music and other rights.

Eros International is planning a very wide release for the super hero action packed film in 2D and 3D formats in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu with over 3500 screens worldwide, out of which approx 500 screens are expected to be in 3D in India and approximately 50 plus 3D screens overseas.

In the late afternoon, Eros International Media Ltd was trading at around Rs259.90 per share on the Bombay Stock Exchange, 3.16% up from the previous close.

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