Mumbai will finally get its second airport, some 35 km from the existing one, with the environment and forests ministry giving its nod Monday after all "green" concerns were amicably addressed.
"Formally, the environmental clearance for this project (Navi Mumbai) has been accorded. The provisions of building the airport can start today," Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh told a press conference here, with Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel and Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan by his side.
The green ministry and the aviation ministry had been at loggerheads over the alleged delay in environment clearance for the airport.
According to Ramesh, a major compromise has been reached between his ministry, the City and Industrial Development Corporation of Maharashtra (CIDCO) and the civil aviation ministry.
"In the last couple of months, there has been lot of discussion between the Maharashtra government, the ministry of civil aviation and the environment ministry. We have bargained, we have negotiated and we have compromised," Ramesh said.
"All of us have compromised as it has become inevitable. I am sure the result is an environmentally safe and ecologically sound, energy efficient international airport at Mumbai."
Thanking the environment ministry, Civil Aviation Minister Patel said: "It is a very important project not only for Mumbai but for the economy of Maharashtra, economy of the country and for the growth of civil aviation sector in the country."
The environment ministry has been of the view that the construction of an airport at the proposed site in Navi Mumbai, some 20 km from the main city, will lead to destruction of a mangrove forest, diversion of two rivers - Ulwe and Gadhi - and blasting of an 90-metre-high hill which falls in the path of the proposed runway.
"Today there is 161 hectares of mangroves in the airport project area. On the completion of the airport, 678 hectares of mangrove plantation would be there around the airport. It will be a fourfold increase in the area under mangrove in Navi Mumbai," he said.
As far as diversion of two rivers is concerned, Ramesh said Gadhi will not be diverted but the course of Ulwe has to be changed.
"Finally, the 90-metre-high hill has to be removed and on that we had to make a compromise. I don't mind admitting… otherwise the approach to the runway would not have been smooth. On this we have had to give in completely."
"I want to thank the Maharashtra chief minister and the civil aviation minister as we have imposed 32 conditions for environmental clearance and now the ministry is completely on board to expedite the construction of airport," he added.
Planned as a public-private partnership, the project is proposed with 74 percent equity with the private players and the remaining 26 percent divided equally between the state-run Airports Authority of India and the CIDCO.
The project, proposed at a distance of some 35 km from the existing Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai, is expected to absorb the load due to future growth in population, business and commercial activity of the region.
Around 1,140 hectares of land has already been earmarked for it, officials said.
It is expected to handle 10 million passengers in its first operational year, doubling to 20 million in eight years. The aim is that the airport would have a handling capacity of 40 million passengers by 2030.