The final decision on the proposed airport at Panvel, 35 kms from Mumbai, has been put off once again.
At a meeting called by the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) in New Delhi on Thursday, Union Minister Jairam Ramesh told the Maharashtra government to submit the Environment Impact Assessment Report (EIA) for the 1,140-hectare airport by end of August. The MoEF will scrutinise the report and decide on approving the project in 45 days, Ramesh said. However, two other projects, the Mumbai Metro and the Haji Ali-Worli sea link, will get environmental clearance by end of March.
A delegation, led by Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, met Ramesh to discuss projects awaiting environmental clearances.
Ramesh told Hindustan Times, “This time the MoEF called Chavan to discuss pending projects. We met and reviewed projects. He has agreed to meet me more regularly now.” The minister was, however, categorically said a go-ahead for the airport project is pending. “We will consider it after the EIA is submitted.’’
A senior bureaucrat, who was present at the meeting, said: “We hope pending infrastructure projects get a speedy clearance after this meeting. Both, Haji Ali-Worli sea link and Mumbai metro’s second corridor will be considered at a meeting on March 25 and are likely to get cleared.’
Ramesh, however ticked off the state for seeking relaxation in coastal regulatory zone (CRZ) norms for projects such as redevelopment of dilapidated buildings. “I have told them that I cannot give a blanket permission to the state to use its unrestrictive power in case of private developers,” Ramesh said.
The state’s Urban Development department had asked the MoEF to consider a different set of coastal norms for Mumbai since its land use requirement is high. It wanted enhanced Floor Space Index to be allowed in dilapidated structures in coastal areas, MHADA colonies and cluster redevelopment projects among others.
The state will have to revert to the ministry with a proposal on how it plans to use CRZ II areas for housing urban poor under projects by a public sector undertaking or government agency instead of private developers. The M.S. Swaminathan committee report on the CRZ policy had suggested this.