An environment ministry committee on Wednesday cleared most green hurdles for Mumbai’s second international airport at Navi Mumbai but imposed tough conditions for the project.
The Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) submitted its recommendations to environment minister Jairam Ramesh, who is expected to announce his decision by Friday.
“Not yet done,” Ramesh said but refused to elaborate further.
In Mumbai, civil aviation minister Praful Patel announced that the Navi Mumbai airport — to cater to 36 million people every year — had got environment clearance.
The airport had been a bone of contention between the two ministers on environment grounds.
“Most issues have been resolved,” said panel chairperson Naresh Dayal, who submitted the recommendations to the minister.
In most cases, the panel’s decision is final. But considering the minister’s personal interest in the project, the committee decided that Ramesh should take the final call.
Officials, however, said the real concerns about environment are addressed in several conditions that have been imposed on the City Industrial Development Organisation (CIDCO) to build the airport. “If any of the conditions is not met, the ministry has powers to scrap the clearance,” an official said.
Among the prominent conditions is no diversion of Gadhi and Ulwe rivers and a mangrove park of around 300 acres and shifting all non-aeronautical functions outside the main airport area. A minimum flow will have to be maintained in the two rivers throughout the year.
The panel has asked CIDCO to reduce the distance between two runways from 1,835 metres to 1,500 metres to minimise impact on two rivers. Also, Ulwe – a tidal river — will flow below one of the runways, to which CIDCO had earlier objected. Demolition of the hill as demanded by CIDCO to construct runways have been accepted.
Another condition is that the airport cannot be made operational until improved public transportation, including dedicated road or mass rapid transport system corridors to access the airport, are built.
“Mass transport facility, suburban/ metro train may be built to interconnect all major airports of the city,” an official said.
The conditions are described as among the toughest for any airport in India and would mean a higher project cost for CIDCO. The ministry is also looking at the option of third-party monitoring for the project.