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Monday, August 16, 2010

DNA: Mumbai - Navi Mumbai airport will cause environmental damage: Jairam Ramesh

DNA: Mumbai - Navi Mumbai airport will cause environmental damage: Jairam Ramesh
Navi Mumbai airport will cause environmental damage: Jairam Ramesh

PTI / Saturday, August 14, 2010 20:41 IST
Environment minister Jairam Ramesh today disfavoured the proposed Navi Mumbai Airport saying it would have serious environmental implications and suggested an alternative site for the second airport in Mumbai.

He said that the proposed airport construction in Navi Mumbai will have serious environmental implications and the flooding of Panvel could be one among them.

"Mumbai needs a second airport. But where that airport should be located is a matter that has to be decided coolly, dispassionately, taking into account all environmental matters," Ramesh told reporters in Mumbai while explaining the steps taken by the ministry on the environmental damages caused by the oil spill off the Mumbai coast.

Strongly refuting the charge that he was stalling the development of the city, the minister said environmental approval is not a mere formality.

"I have no problem with Navi Mumbai. I am not to stall any development. But we cannot ignore environmental issues. Environmental clearance is not a formality. It has to be gone through (sic)," Ramesh said.

Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) 1991 did not allow the building of an airport in Navi Mumbai. Though it was amended in 2009, it was not to build an airport in Navi Mumbai, he said.

"Please note that CRZ '91 was amended to make constructing an airport in Navi Mumbai a permissible activity subject to neutralisation measures being undertaken," Ramesh said.

Ramesh said that three MPs from Thane district had met him on August 13 with an application to move the new airport to Kalyan.

"The MPs told me that 1,800 acres of land, available near Kalyan which is now in the possession of the defence establishment, can be used for the second airport instead of Navi Mumbai. I have passed all those papers to the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) for Infrastructure," he said.

The minister said there are three major environmental issues regarding the proposed Navi Mumbai Airport site, with diversion of two rivers being the most serious issue.

"Diversion of the rivers is the most serious issue. We all know what happened to Mithi. In case of a flooding or monsoon, what will happen to Panvel town..?" he said. The loss of 400 acres of mangroves and the blasting of a hill 80metre above sea level are the two other serious issues, Ramesh said.

Recently, IIT-Mumbai had done a study on the environmental implications of the construction of the new airport and submitted their findings to EAC. On the basis of that study, EAC sought clarifications from CIDCO, the developing agency.

"CIDO representatives are asked to clarify the issues raised by EAC on August 18 meeting. If these issues can be resolved, then I will examine the recommendations of EAC," Ramesh said.

To a query, Ramesh said the Expert Committee of Airport Authority of India (AAI) had found Rewas-Mandwa as the best site for a second airport in 1996. But later in 2000, following a recommendation from Maharashtra government, AAI selected Navi Mumbai for the second airport.

"I have no problem with that. But I cannot give environmental clearance with good conscience until and unless all the major concerns are resolved. I conveyed these factors to the civil aviation minister (Praful Patel) and the chief minister. They are also concerned," Ramesh said.

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