Navi Mumbai airport clears a hurdle

Thursday brought a breakthrough in the standoff between Union and the Maharashtra state government over the environmental clearance to Mumbai’s second airport. Officials appeared more than willing to go the extra mile to pave the way for an early clearance of the construction of Navi Mumbai airport. The Maharashtra government — after consultation with experts in the aviation ministry and the Centre’s hydraulic department — has decided to remove 160 hectares of Waghivali village from the proposed airport area. The area abuts Panvel Creek and two rivers, Gadhi and Ulve, north of the airport site. This, officials feel, will convince the Union environment ministry of its intent to protect the environment by not tinkering with as much of the river as possible. The state has also agreed to regenerate and maintain the thick mangrove forest in the portion taken out of the airport area. And, to make up for the portion being lost to save the environment, Cidco will acquire a 160-hectare portion towards the south of the site near Parve village. Similarly, while diverting the rivers, especially the Gadhi, the state will strive to ensure minimum damage to the mangrove cover and save a 200-metre-wide belt. On Thursday a group of officials from state government agencies and the Airports Authority of India (AAI) visited the site before deciding to take the portion of land — reserved for non-aeronautical purposes — out of the airport boundary.

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