The Navi Mumbai airport project report will be put to yet another crucial test.
The Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC), the statutory body at the Centre that gives environment clearance to projects, will examine the project on Friday.
The project that aims at easing the air traffic has been going back and forth from the state to the Centre since 2007.
The EAC had sent the report packing on July 22, 2010, asking the Maharashtra government for some more information and because the mandatory Social Impact Assessment (SIA) of the project was not done.
Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh had also on several occasions reiterated his stand on the clearance saying he cannot ignore the environmental violations as pointed out by the EAC.
“The project does not mention how it will be handling the diversion of the two rivers that could flood Panvel, the loss of the 400-acre mangrove cover and razing a 80-meter high hillock. In my good conscience I cannot ignore the environmental violations,” Ramesh had said in an interview to the Hindustan Times last week.
Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel had expressed concern over the congested Mumbai airport and had blamed Ramesh for delaying the new project calling him ‘overly obsessive’ about environment issues.
The appraisal committee had also wanted to know whether any alternative sites for the airport had been examined.
It had also rejected the maps of the proposed project site saying they were made in 1990 and the site had undergone a lot of changes since.
While its fate remains undecided, the issue has gained political momentum.
Shiv Sena Member of Parliament Bharatkumar Raut extended support to Ramesh by indicating that his party was not in favour of the Navi Mumbai site.
“Several hectares of mangroves will be destroyed along with the diverting of two rivers…we are not against development but not at the cost of the ecology,” he said while raising the issue during the Zero Hour in Parliament on Thursday.
He also alleged that politicians, who have purchased huge tracts of land around the site at throwaway prices, are hoping to sell the land at a premium for the airport project.
Last week, Sena MP from Thane, Anand Paranjpe, and two other MPs had approached Ramesh suggesting the airport be built at a site at Kalyan that was an airport strip during World War II, saying it was environmentally and commercially viable.