The Bombay High Court has issued notices to the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF), the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) of Maharashtra, the Maharashtra government, and the Ministry of Civil Aviation in a case in which environmental clearances for the development of Navi Mumbai International Airport (NMIA) has been challenged.
A Public Trust, Vanshakti, has filed a public interest litigation and challenged the clearances granted by the MoEF and Maharashtra Pollution Control Board for development of Navi Mumbai International Airport at Navi Mumbai on the basis of violation of various requirements for environmental clearance including requirement for constructing a mangrove park near the airport.
The PIL seeks quashing of environmental clearance given by MoEF in November 2010 besides setting aside consent granted by Ministry of Civil Aviation for construction of phase-I of the project. According to the petition, a study has been conducted by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) which shows that a mangrove park cannot co-exist with the airport, as proposed. According to the study, birds are a threat to aviation safety.
“Under these circumstances, it is clear that the mangrove park cannot come up along with the airport. Since the condition relating mangrove park cannot be complied with, the environmental clearance should have been revoked immediately. Yet, no steps have been taken by the authorities in this regard,” states the petition.
“The proposed site is ecologically rich with mangroves, rivers, forest, and hills. It has more than 300 species of birds that will be affected due to the project. Even though the site is one of the remaining bio-diverse spots in Maharashtra, the clearance was granted to CIDCO, based on strict compliance with certain conditions. The MoEF has the authority to revoke the clearance if these conditions are not met. Presently, there have been several non-compliances on the part of CIDCO; yet, the environmental clearance has not been revoked,” states the petition.
The proposed location of the NMIA is within 10 km of the Karnala bird sanctuary, and requires diversion of rivers, blasting of hills, reclamation of mangroves and loss of around 300 species of birds, added the petition. “The NMIA project was granted in-principle approval by the office of Chief Secretary Maharashtra on July 6, 2007. At the time, permission was granted without assessment of environmental aspects. The authorities were required to conduct environmental studies, before starting any work on the project site.
CIDCO has now begun development work such as levelling the ground, cutting and blasting the hillocks, and reclaiming coastal wetlands/ marsh lands without completion of these studies,” added the petition. The petition claims that despite several environmental concerns and ecological vulnerability of the site, environmental clearance was granted on November 22, 2010.