Work on second airport in Goa can resume as SC lifts embargoUpdated: Jan 17, 2020 00:10 IST
Paving way for construction of the much-delayed Goa International Airport, the Supreme Court has lifted the embargo on construction imposed in March last year and appointed a Central institute to monitor compliance with the conditions imposed by the environment ministry’s expert appraisal committee (EAC).
Officials are likely to revise the deadline for the second airport in Goa — a ₹3,000-crore project across 2,131 acres at Mopa village, which is on the foothills of the Western Ghats along Goa’s border with Maharashtra — to early 2022, from the earlier September 2020.
Justice DY Chandrachud on Thursday took on record the fresh decision of the EAC, based on a revised environmental data submitted by the state government. To avoid recurrence of environmental oversight, the SC appointed the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute “to oversee compliance with the directions cumulatively issued by this Court”.
The project was stayed primarily because the Supreme Court found that the Goa government had failed to provide complete information on the existence of reserved forests including those which fall within a 15-km radius of the proposed airport at Mopa. The SC had highlighted deficiencies in the data provided, including information on preservation of forests, existence of environmentally sensitive areas and impact of the proposed project on natural water channels.
Following the stay in March 2019, the Goa government sent to the environment ministry fresh information which revealed the presence of seven reserved forests within 15km of the proposed airport, six proposed reserved forests in Goa and 29 proposed reserve forests in the Maharashtra region. Besides this, the report mentioned the presence of four rivers in Goa and one in Maharashtra as also the fact that the Western Ghat Mountain range falls within the study area.
Accordingly, the EAC once again recommended the grant of an environmental clearance (EC) to the project, with additional environmental safeguards and conditions. “The evaluation of merits is a matter which primarily rests with an expert authority. The court can certainly supervise procedural compliance and ensure that all necessary inputs which are required to be factored into the decision-making process have been duly borne in mind. Once this has been done, the court must be circumspect in micro-managing the decision-making process by the EAC by substituting its own opinion for that of the EAC,” the Supreme Court said.
Goa chief minister Pramod Sawant welcomed the SC decision. Mopa airport will open new avenues for Goa and propel the state’s economic growth. The government is committed towards sustainable development that prioritizes its people and environment,” Sawant said.
“We are of course disappointed with the order but we will continue to fight against it in the remaining available avenues. Ideally, the EIA should have been conducted afresh. We believe that this project is anti-people and anti-development and have been able to prove that the EIA study is flawed and was a product of government policy which itself is anti-people and against the environment,” Abhijit Prabhudesai, who has been at the forefront of the environmental movement against the project, said.