The fate of the proposed Navi Mumbai airport still hangs in the balance.
The Centre's Experts Appraisal Committee, which met on Friday to consider environmental clearances for it, gave no clear signal. This means that the airport could get delayed further.
The committee members decided to visit the airport site and assess for themselves the effect of the construction on the environment, rather than rely on maps and information provided by the City Industrial Development Corporation of Maharashtra Ltd (CIDCO). CIDCO is the nodal agency that is developing the airport.
In its last meeting on July 22, the committee said CIDCO's report was incomplete because it did not have a Social Impact Assessment of the project. Also, there was nothing on the other sites considered for the airport.
The committee pointed out that the maps submitted by CIDCO were old and not as per norms. Sources said CIDCO was unable to provide the necessary information on Friday either.
Tanaji Satre, CIDCO's officiating managing director, who attended the meeting, refused to divulge details. "I can't say anything. You will have to ask the committee members. CIDCO has submitted all the documents they demanded. They will let us know when they will visit the site of the proposed airport," Satre said.
Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel, who was in Mumbai to attend a meeting with Chief Minister Ashok Chavan on the rehabilitation of slums on land that belongs to the existing airport, was firm that the second airport would be built in Navi Mumbai. There had been a suggestion that alternative sites near Kalyan or Rewas-Mandwa be considered.
"The airport will come up in Navi Mumbai. There is no question of considering Rewas-Mandwa or Kalyan. The Civil Aviation Ministry will not consider any other site," Patel said.
Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, who was in Mumbai last week, said the site was not acceptable because of the environmental concerns. He said the current plan did not mention how the agencies would manage the diversion of two rivers, which could flood Panvel, the loss of the 400-acre mangrove cover and the razing of an 80-metre-high hillock. "I cannot ignore the environmental violations in good conscience," Ramesh said. Patel refused to comment on the 'violations'.