Navi Mumbai airport gets green signal

First phase expected to cost Rs 4,000 crore


Neha Sethi | November 22, 2010

After much debate on its possible ecological impact, the proposed Navi Mumbai airport finally got an environmental clearance on Monday. “Formally the environment clearance for this project has been accorded. The process essentially of building the airport can start today,” Jairam Ramesh, the environment and forests minister, said while addressing a press conference in New Delhi.

He said that from an environmental point of view, this has been a major compromise that has been reached between the ministry of environment and forests, City and Industrial Development Corporation of Maharashtra Ltd (CIDCO) and the civil aviation ministry.

Ramesh said that there are 161 hectares of mangroves in the airport project area as of today. When the project is commissioned 678 hectares of mangroves will come up instead of the existing ones. Though he said that there is a four-fold increase in the area under mangroves, but the ministry had to give the go-ahead for 98 hectares of mangroves to be razed to allow the airport to come up.

The second dispute was the diversion of the river Gadhi. But thanks to the intervention of civil aviation minister Praful Patel, the distance between two runways is being reduced from 1.8 km to 1.55 km.  "Consequence is that the river Gadhi will not be diverted,” Ramesh said. The minister said that the Ulwe water body, though, will need to be re-coursed.

The 90 metre high hill that was to be removed was also one of the disputed points. Ramesh said that he had to make a compromise on that front. “In any case, the hill is already being quarried. The ecological value of this hill is virtually zero,” he added.

The ministry of environment and forests has imposed 32 conditions which have to be fulfilled before the airport project work is completed. One of the conditions is that CIDCO will have to obtain necessary permission from the high court of Bombay for cutting mangroves and clearance under forest conservation act 1980.

On the matter of rehabilitation of the 3,000 families, CIDCO will have to rehabilitate these families from 10 settlements, falling within the airport zone, as per the R&R policy of the government of India or the government of Maharashtra, whichever is more beneficial to the project-afflicted persons.

The conditions also mention that no property development will be undertaken for further airport expansions within the proposed aeronautical airport zone area.

Praful Patel, civil aviation minister, said that this is a very important and significant step for the economy of Maharahstra and economy of the country. “The project will come up under public-private partnership (PPP)”, he added. As many as 74 percent shares will belong to the private player, 13 percent to CIDCO and 13 percent to the state government.

Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan said that there are four or five more steps which need to be taken before the construction of the airport can begin. “We will apply for a forest clearance next week,” he said. The clearance from the high court had to be sought also, Chavan said, adding that he had told his officials to acquire 436 hectares of area.

“We have agreed to use 20 percent of the energy needs of the airport from non-conventional sources of energy,” Chavan added. He said that the first phase of the airport is expected to cost around Rs 4,000 crore and increase the capacity of 10 million passengers per year. The first phase is expected to be complete by 2014-15. 



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