Kolhapur: The high-powered committee appointed by the state government has given in-principle nod to the Mahalakshmi temple development project submitted by the Kolhapur Municipal Corporation (KMC).

The go-ahead came during a meeting of the committee members comprising officials of all the departments under the chairmanship of chief secretary Sumit Malik on Friday. Civic officials, including the municipal commissioner, attended the meeting.

The committee approved the Rs 68-crore project and asked the civic officials to present it before chief minister Devendra Fadnavis in the next two weeks for final approval.

About a year ago, the first phase of the project was estimated to cost around Rs 225 crore. It was subsequently reduced to Rs 92 crore and finally to Rs 68 crore.

Municipal commissioner Abhijeet Chaudhari said, “Soon, we will present the project to the CM for final approval.”

The committee has asked the KMC officials to start work on drafting the second phase of temple development and suggested that emphasis should be laid on parking spaces.

The present parking space is inadequate and visitors are forced to park their vehicles along the road, causing traffic congestion.

The committee also suggested setting up of a facility to treat the ‘nirmalaya’ (flower and food offerings) on the premises itself.

Chief engineer Netradip Sarnobat of the KMC said, “Lakhs of tourists visit the temple during festivals. We are making the parking and lodging arrangements in the first phase of the project. Once the CM approves the project, we expect more funds will be released in the next two to three months, following which the work of appointing expert firms will commence.”

The committee directed the civic officials to start shifting the shops located on the temple premises to make space for the construction of the “Darshana Mandap” (visitors’ pandal), which will cost around Rs 7 crore.

The pandal will be a two-storey building with 1,750 square meters of space. The structure will have drinking water facilities, lockers and restrooms.