Matters concerned with Environment

Monday, June 22, 2009

No airport over mangroves: Jairam Ramesh

No airport over mangroves: Jairam Ramesh

Prachi Jatania / CNN-IBN
TimePublished on Sun, Jun 21, 2009 at 16:11

Sun Jun 21, 2009 10:25 am (PDT)
New Delhi: The Ministry of Forest and Environment has put a halt on the construction of the Navi Mumbai Airport as it wants to save the mangroves at the site. Union Forest and Environment minister Jairam Ramesh said, “International Airport doesn't have to be in prime ecological value land. In nine cases out of ten, alternatives can be found.”

The minister has issued a directive to the Maharashtra government to shift the site of ambitious airport project over concerns of threat to mangroves, following which the State and Centre are at loggerheads.

Spread across 20 sq km, the construction for the Rs 9000 crore Navi Mumbai airport site would mean: Clearing 150 hectares of mangroves that are crucial barriers to prevent flooding.

Reclaiming wetlands after tweaking coastal rules to allow development. Since mangroves are not classified as forest they're easy target for developers.

In fact, with persistent lobbying the CONG-NCP led State government has managed to amend the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) act as a 'special case' for the new airport.

It was the Environment ministry that gave an in-principle nod to the state's proposal.

Officials of CIDCO, the nodal agency for the project are now baffled at the Centre's change of heart Meanwhile, chairman, CIDCO Nakul Patil said, '' There's no question of changing the site. No site available that can be considered now'.'

Environment activists welcome the corrective measures. Bombay Environmental Action Group (BEAG) Debi goenka said, ''Everybody knew this plan would be an environmental disaster.''

Tampering with nature's flood barriers led to a destructive impact on Mumbai during the July 2005 floods. With the Navi Mumbai airport plans stirring up a Centre- State debate, will the Environment ministry bowto political pressure remains to be seen.

(With inputs from Bahar Dutt)

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