Amid a controversy surrounding the ownership of a stretch of the Juhu beach, activists — claiming the land is owned by the state government and not the Airports Authority of India (AAI) — are opposing the proposed extension of the Juhu airstrip.
With a AAI now erecting a signboard on the beach claiming that the stretch is under its ownership, the activists have intensified their protests.
Activist Godfrey Pimenta said a reply received on June 28 to a Right to Information (RTI) query showed that the land where the board has been erected does not come under the AAI.
“The copy of the draft Development Plan had clearly mentioned that the beach was never a property owned by the AAI. The reply to our RTI query has made it clearer that the part of the beach where the AAI desires a runway extension belongs to the state government,” Pimenta said.
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“Beyond a particular limit reserved under Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ), the foreshore land rests under the authority of the state government, according to the Maharashtra Land Revenue Code, 1966.”
“The territory of the Juhu aerodrome ends where the runway of the heliport ends. Thus, the hoarding put up by the AAI authorities is completely illegal,” Pimenta added.
The plan includes extending the Juhu airport runway from 1,143 metre to an additional 877 metre to supplement the heliport operations of the airport. The airport authorities had claimed that the extension would help increase capacity and allow more aircraft to fly from here.
However, the activists believe the extension may usurp the only open space left in Juhu.
“The construction of the runway will restrict residents’ movements on the beach and seize the only open space left in Juhu.”
“We are planning to approach the AAI at the earliest and ask them to do away with their extension plans. If positive support is not received from their side, we will continue with our protests against them and also lodge an FIR to ensure the beach is saved,” Pimenta said.
The AAI officials, however. claimed that there exists a thin line on the beach which demarcates the combined ownership of the beach land between AAI and the state government.
“Our hoarding is erected on the land owned by us as opposed to the other parts of the Juhu beach owned by the state government. We are also paid rents by some of Juhu beach food stall owners as some part of their land is under our jurisdiction. As far as the runway extension is concerned, we have made it clear that it will not interfere with the activities of the beach,” a senior AAI official said.
On June 5, the activists had staged protests on the beach to oppose the proposed extension of the runway. Currently, the airport caters to a large number of helicopter and fixed-wing small aircraft operations.