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PMO seeks quick decision on Navi Mumbai airport project

Jairam's panel wants CIDCO to look at option of runway on stilts to save mangroves,says no to airport hotel.

Written by Amitabh Sinha
New Delhi | September 8, 2010 2:10:06 am

With the Prime Minister’s Office stepping in again,it is now becoming increasingly clear that the second airport for Mumbai will,in all probability,be built at the proposed location in Navi Mumbai that is facing a host of environmental objections.

In its latest intervention in the matter,the PMO has gently prodded the Environment Ministry to expedite its decision-making process on the crucial infrastructure project that seeks to address the pressing problem of shrinking airspace for Mumbai’s rising air-traffic.

In a letter dated September 3,the PMO is learnt to have said that the decision to give or deny environmental clearance to the project needed to be taken quickly to remove the uncertainty on the issue.

The Prime Minister played the arbiter on this issue earlier as well,bringing the warring parties — Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel and Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh — together to find a mutually acceptable solution. The two ministers had met late last month as well,during which some progress towards resolving the differences was learnt to have been made.

The issue of environmental clearance to the Navi Mumbai project is being dealt with by the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of the Environment Ministry. The Ministry has been opposing the selection of the proposed site on environmental grounds — diversion of two rivers,damage to hundreds of acres of mangroves and flattening of a hilltop. The Ministry has in the past asked the project developer CIDCO (City and Industrial Development Corporation of the Maharashtra government) to consider other sites.

But government sources said the question of the Navi Mumbai site for the new airport is all but settled,unless the EAC reaches the conclusion that the environmental impact of the project would be disproportionately large in comparison to the benefits that are likely to accrue.

Accordingly,the emphasis now is to try and minimise the environmental impact as far as possible. In this regard,the Environment Ministry has suggested that plans to integrate a hotel and shopping complex within the airport project be dropped — much of the destruction to the mangroves is likely to occur because of the construction of this hotel and shopping complex.

CIDCO has been asked by the EAC to consider re-locating these non-essential components of the project to some other area. Some other changes in design of the airport has also been suggested. CIDCO has also been asked to re-evaluate the option of having runways on stilts so that damage to mangroves is minimal.

The EAC is contemplating making a site visit itself,but that is expected to happen only after its next round of meeting slated for September 20-22.

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