Navi Mumbai airport update

A few hurdles still stand between Mumbai and its second airport and it may be at least a year before work even starts. The central team of environmental experts has set a new list of conditions that include channeling underground natural water streams into the rivers, creation of a canal between Gadhi and Ulve rivers and development of mangrove lagoon on Waghivali island village, before the state for clearance to the airport. While the government is ready to meet all of them, even if it gets environmental clearance the state will have to approach the Bombay High Court and Union forest department for clearances on mangrove hacking and regeneration. Later, the process to appoint developers will take a minimum of six months. This means actual airport construction is almost over a year away--- still a distant dream. The only ray of hope stems from the fact that the state government has agreed to unconditionally incorporate the Centre’s suggestions in the final plan. To meet the environmental conditions, the state has agreed to shift the runway, and thus the site, 350 metres south giving up 450 hectares of eco-sensitive land near Panvel creek mostly including Waghivali village and Gadhi river’s U-shaped course. However towards the south of the site, the state is in a position to accommodate only 300 hectares. To compensate the loss of 150 hectares the government has decided to make available 150 hectares of FSI to the developers to make the project commercially feasible. “There are riders. We will have to give even more depth and width to Ulve river while diverting it, ensure channeling of underground drainage system into rivers before flattening hills and filling up land for construction, build a canal connecting Gadhi and Ulve rivers, and create mangrove lagoon on Waghivali island and around. We will not be able to touch the Gadhi river at all and when diverting Ulve and constructing canals, we will have to build retaining walls,” revealed sources in the state government who were involved in discussions with the central team . After visiting the airport site on Wednesday, the experts’ appraisal committee (EAC) of the Union environment and forest ministry (MoEF) on Thursday held discussions with Cidco and state urban development department officials at Maharashtra Pollution Control Board office at Sion. This was mainly to remove doubts about the plan and help Cidco finalise the blueprint for environmental damage control. EAC members refused to talk to the media and will submit their report to the MoEF soon, based on which a decision is expected within a month or two. Chief minister Ashok Chavan said, “I am hopeful that the airport will soon be a reality and will meet the EAC on Friday in Mumbai.” State urban department principal secretary T C Benjamin said a presentation has been made to EAC and there are positive indications. “There were some minor objections but it looks good overall. Now we will wait for MoEF decision,” said Benjamin. Cidco MD Tanaji Satre said, “Every issue pertaining to the environment was discussed and there seems to be scope for some headway now. We have submitted all the reports and are hopeful about the environmental clearance.”

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