Union Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh on Saturday said that he is not against a second airport for Mumbai in Panvel, but was concerned about the ecological damage the site might have on the surrounding areas.
"I am not against the development of the commercial capital of India. Mumbai does require a second airport at the earliest, but I am very clear in my mind that the present site selected by City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) has major environmental concerns," Ramesh said.
"Around 400 acres of mangrove cover is like to be destroyed. Moreover, two rivers will have to be diverted and an 80-metre hill flattened if the airport comes up at the current site," Ramesh added.
Ramesh said that on a scale of one to 10, 10 being the highest, diversion of two rivers - Gadhi and Ulwe - is a point-10 concern.
"Villages in that area will be submerged if waters of both the rivers are diverted."
The Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), that met last month, had asked CIDCO to provide additional information regarding the same.
The EAC will meet Aug 18 to decide the fate of the new airport site.
Ramesh also mentioned that a delegation of three MPs met with him and proposed that Kalyan be considered as an alternative site for the second international airport.
"A delegation of MPs Suresh Tawre from Bhiwandi, Anand Paranjpe from Kalyan and Baliram Jadhav from Palghar proposed Kalyan as an ideal location," Ramesh said.
"The defence ministry owns the site and has an old airstrip there," Ramesh added.