The State government is not keen to shift the site for the new airport near Navi Mumbai.
A day after Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh wrote to Chief Minister Ashok Chavan to consider shifting the site of the new airport, as it could cause “irreparable damage” to coastal ecology, state government officials said scouting for an alternative site would not be ‘viable at this stage’.
Chavan is expected to reply to Ramesh by Friday, apprising him of approvals taken for the project.
The letter is also expected to point out that the City and Industrial Development Corporation has already acquired 77 per cent of land required for the airport planned across 2,053 hectares.
A case will also be made for the second airport as Mumbai’s airport is already stretched to its maximum capacity.
“This does not mean the project stands cancelled,” said Chief Secretary Johny Joseph. “The chief minister will write to the environment minister apprising him of the entire project as well as pointing to difficulties in finding an alternative site.”
After receiving a provisional exemption from the high court over certain coastal regulatory norms, the state was gung-ho about the project.
In 2006, the court had banned any form of destruction of mangrove land and called for freezing all construction within 50 metres of mangrove land.
After this, the Ministry of Environment and Forests had amended the 1991 notification for the Navi Mumbai airport.
Ramesh’s letter to Chavan and Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel pointed out: “I was shocked to discover recently that there is a proposal to build an international airport in Navi Mumbai on 150 hectares of mangrove land and 150 hectares of coastal marshy land, which includes 118 hectares of water body”.
The letter was written after Rajya Sabha member and noted ecological scientist M.S. Swaminathan and other city environmentalists briefed the minister about the grave danger the project posed to the area’s ecology.
Officials said Ramesh’s strong stance could potentially jeopardise the project, the work order for which was expected to be given by March 2010.