Under pressure to minimise the ecological damage caused by the proposed international airport at Navi Mumbai, the state government and the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) plan to shift the project’s commercial component to the south of the site.
The Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) had insisted that the 415-hectare non-aeronautical section, which has mangroves and water bodies, be shifted. The Environment Ministry does not want the mangroves touched or the Gadhi river diverted, both of which are required as per the existing plan.
The state is now looking for land to the south to shift the commercial section, ie, hotels, malls, banks and conference halls. On Friday, Hindustan Times reported about 300 unoccupied hectares to the south of the site that are in CIDCO possession.
This site presented fewer ecological concerns. The plot is earmarked for an airport special economic zone, but has not been allotted to anyone.
There are two other plots to the left with no major ecological concerns — 100 hectares allotted to electronics major Videocon and 162 hectares to the Navi Mumbai Special Economic Zone. No work has started there. “We are ready to go the extra mile to make sure environmental issues are resolved. We’ll see if we can move the non-aeronautical zone south,” said T.C. Benjamin, principal secretary, Urban Development Department.
The state has asked the Central Water and Power Research Station on how the Gadhi’s diversion can be minimised. “However, in the south, there may not be enough space because much of it is hilly. A decision will be taken on September 13 before we present the case to the EAC,” Benjamin said. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told a state Congress delegation that he would discuss the matter with the environment and aviation ministries that are at loggerheads over the site.
“We are not averse to making compromises for environmental concerns,” said Chief Minister Ashok Chavan. “The prime minister responded positively when we said the issue should be resolved by September 22, the day experts meet to discuss the airport.” The Environment Ministry has three objections to the site — the diversion of two rivers, the hacking of mangroves and the levelling of hillocks.
Inputs by Dharmendra Jore