The much-touted $10 billion mega city project floated by Gulf Finance House and executed by Valuable Properties Ltd near Panvel has got in-principle approval from the state-level Environment Impact Assessment Authority.
The final environmental clearance will be given only after the developer submits the environment impact assessment report (see box). The project includes setting up of three cities: Energy, Entertainment, Information Technology and Telecom spread across a total of 1,775 acres.
But, getting the final clearance does not mean the project can go ahead. Residents of eight of the 11 villages in the area where the city is planned have protested the inclusion of their villages in the project. They say it is coming up on fertile agricultural land, which cannot be acquired or sold as per the central government policy.
The residents alleged that the developer was buying land by bullying poor farmers saying if they didn’t sell their land at the developer’s price, the government would acqu-ire the land at a meagre price.
Bhagwan Patil, a member of the Aathgaon Sangharsh Samiti, claimed that he and his family members were receiving threats from the executing company to surrender their land. “First, they fooled my brother by giving him a petty amount and later threatened me to sell the remaining land of our farm,” he said.
The Samiti has complained to the home and revenue ministers.
A senior official from the revenue department said they haven’t got a copy of the complaint.
“It’s not easy to convert agricultural land to non-agricultural. We hold a public hearing on the issue before the change is approved. The residents should complain to the police if their lands are being forcibly acquired. If they send a complaint, we will look into it,” he said.
An official from Valuable Properties has said they have already purchased 65% of the land. “The residents are protesting as they want a higher price than what we are offering. Also, rules permit the land use to be changed to non-agricultural on a certain fee,” he said.