The long awaited environmental clearance for the Navi Mumbai international airport is a big step forward, but it’s not the final approval required for the project to take off.
City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO), the project developer, has the unenviable task of procuring three more approvals — from the Central Ministry of Forests, the Bombay High Court and Union Ministry of Defence — before work can begin.
The project developer would also have to acquire 436 hectares of land to rehabilitate the 3,000 families from the surrounding villages that will be displaced by the project. This too must be done before work orders are issued.
All this is in addition to the 32 stringent conditions and environmental safeguards specified by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests.
These include developing a mangrove park, getting a new Environmental Impact Assessment plan approved, putting together master plan to ensure against flooding and a security plan to safeguard against 26/11-style terror attacks.
These will require additional funds and expertise.
The authorities have only eight to 10 months to comply with all these conditions and initiate the bidding process.
“We need separate clearances from the Bombay High Court for cutting of mangroves and another from forests ministry. We hope to get all the clearances within six months,” said Principal Secretary (Urban Development) TC Benjamin. From the air force and navy, a no-objection certificate will have to be sought.
CIDCO officials plan to move the high court for the approval next week.
The clearance from the forests advisory body is normally a long-drawn-out process that can stretch for years, but officials said Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh had assured them of quick sanctions.
Union Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel asserted that the clearance could come within 48 hours since all the parameters had been discussed at length for the environmental go-ahead. But, many officials were skeptical of files moving that fast.
International airports have been built faster, but can the state government meet the 2015 deadline?
“India built its first greenfield airport at Cochin, followed by Hyderabad and Bangalore. There is no reason why CIDCO can’t learn from these experiences and build a top-class airport in four years. The key is to get consultants of repute right from the beginning, for the bidding process as well as environment mitigation,” said former bureaucrat V Ranganathan. On its own, he added, CIDCO would not make the cut.