The proposed Navi Mumbai International Airport — seen as a solution to air traffic congestion at Mumbai airport — is in trouble.
The central environment ministry has rejected a proposal to amend the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification to allow construction of the airport on a mangrove zone.
Instead, the ministry has asked the promoters, City and Industrial Development Corporation of Maharashtra (CIDCO), to look for an alternative site, away from ecologically sensitive zones.
A letter to this effect was sent last Friday to CIDCO by Dr A Senthil Vel, Additional Director in the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
CIDCO managing director GS Gill confirmed he had received the communication from the environment ministry. “We have already asked them to reconsider. It is an important project for Mumbai and they should be make an exception,” he told Hindustan Times on Thursday. “Since the national authority on Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) has proposed amendment, it should be accepted by the ministry,”he added.
CRZ is an ecologically-sensitive area between sea and land and the a 1991 notification regulates construction or reclamation activities in CRZ.
With Mumbai’s only airport facing problems of congestion, government agency CIDCO planned to construct an international airport on 1,140 hectares of land near Panvel in Raigad district, 35 kms from Mumbai.
Currently, Mumbai airport is under tremendous pressure and expected to handle 25 million air passengers a year by March 2008. This is likely to go up to 91 million by 2030-31. The existing airport will be able to handle only 40 million passengers even after extension. That’s why the state government decided on a second international airport at Panvel. The Centre has already granted conditional approval to the project.
About one fourth of the proposed site falls under CRZ I (ecologically very sensitive) area and the environment ministry objected to plans for reclamation or destruction of mangroves on the same. CIDCO had approached the National Coastal Zone Management Authority (which has powers to allow construction in CRZ) and the latter recommended amendment in the CRZ notification for the airport construction. But the ministry has now turned down the proposal.
The airport is proposed to be developed through public-private participation in which CIDCO and the Airports Authority of India will hold 26 per cent equity. The rest will be held by a private developer, to be chosen through public bidding.