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Give us this land, there isn’t any other: CM

A week after Central environment clearance was rejected for Mumbai’s second airport, the state govt launches a desperate effort to make it a reality, reports Shailesh Gaikwad.
Hindustan Times | By Shailesh Gaikwad, Mumbai
UPDATED ON MAR 08, 2008 02:49 AM IST

A week after Central environment clearance was rejected for Mumbai’s second airport, the state government has launched a desperate effort to somehow make it a reality.

“We are filing an appeal and I will personally take this up with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,” Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh told Hindustan Times on Friday. “The second airport is vital for Mumbai.”

Hindustan Times had on Friday reported how the clearance was rejected because the airport would involve reclamation of low-lying areas in an ecologically fragile zone, as well as destruction of several hectares of mangroves.

The Central Ministry of Environment had conveyed its decision to the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO), the airport’s promoters, through a letter written by Dr A. Senthil Vel, additional director in the ministry.

Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel, who is keen on the airport, said his ministry would also pursue the matter. “Where else can you build an airport in Mumbai?” said an irked Patel.

He pointed out that the National Coastal Zone Management Authority, which regulates activities in ecologically sensitive coastal areas, had okayed the project.

Mumbai airport is already under tremendous pressure and is expected to handle passengers at the rate of 25 million a year by this month’s end.

That figure is likely to go up to 91 million by 2030-31, while its capacity would only increase to 40 million.

The new airport at Navi Mumbai was the solution to this problem.

Land is not available within the city, which is why the state chose the 1,140-hectare site at Panvel, 35 km away from the city.

However, about a quarter of the land has patches of mangroves and water bodies, making it an ecologically sensitive zone.

While the National Coastal Zone Management Authority recommended that the law be amended to allow the airport, the ministry rejected it, asking CIDCO to look for another site.

CIDCO Managing Director GS Gill told Hindustan Times on Thursday that this would mean “a delay of a few months for construction of the airport”.

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