The residents of Hirasar and nearby villages in the district on Friday raised their concerns about losing their agricultural and grazing land to the proposed Rajkot greenfield airport project during a public hearing on environmental clearance. The Gujarat government has proposed to develop a greenfield airport at Hirasar, some 20 km east of Rajkot city on National Highway-27. It has plans to acquire around 1,025 hectare (ha) of land near the Hirasar and adjoining villages of Rajkot taluka, besides Garida and others in neighbouring Surendrangar district.
As much as 633 ha is forest land while 235 ha is government wasteland. Besides, 67 ha of guachar grazing land and 35 ha agricultural land will also be acquired while ha black trap mine land will be allocated by the government. The agricultural land forms only four per cent of the total land proposed to be acquired.
As part of the process to grant environmental clearance to the project, being executed by Gujarat State Aviation Infrastructure Company Limited (GUJSAIL), the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) held the public hearing at Hirasar village near Rajkot. Residents of eight villages falling in the 10-kilometre radius took part. Rajkot district collector Vikrant Pandey, sub-divisional magistrate Pragnesh Jani and officials of GUJSAIL were present at the hearing.
At the hour-long hearing, villagers raised questions about resettlement and rehabilitation packages. “The district administration assured the villagers that their concerns related to the revenue department would be addressed soon,” Hemant Patel, Rajkot regional officer of GPCB, said.
Hirasar village sarpanch Khimji Bhalgamadiya said they welcome the proposed project but need assurance about their properties and gauchar land. “There are more than 500 cattle in the village, which require grazing land. The project is also likely to affect several homes. Therefore, we sought an alternative gauchar and houses, with proper road connectivity along with drinking water and drainage facilities, for the affected villagers. The collector has assured us to look into our demands,” Bhalgamadiya told The Indian Express.
The sarpanch added the collector, however, did not give any direct answer on compensation for agricultural land. “He said it was yet to be decided,” said Bhalgamadiya. The collector could not be reached for comment.
On the other hand, Mahesh Pandya, founder director of NGO Paryavaran Mitra, Ahmedabad, and Dharmesh Mistry from Bharuch made written submissions at the hearing. The public hearing was part of environment impact assessment (EIA), on the basis of which clearance to a project is granted.
Airports and national highways fall in the category-I projects, for which EIAs and EC from Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change of the central government are mandatory. The Rajkot greenfield airport will be second international airport in the state after Ahmedabad. There is an operational airport within Rajkot city. But successive proposals of expanding it have failed due to land acquisition and state highway- 25 lining its eastern boundary.