MoEF eases stand on Navi Mumbai airport

Prospects for the proposed airport at Navi Mumbai brightened considerably on Tuesday, with union minister of state for environment and forests Jairam Ramesh saying that the project developers had addressed "65 per cent" of the issues raised by his ministry. Despite the strong lobby in its favour, the project has been held up on environmental grounds.

After a meeting with civil aviation minister Praful Patel as well as officials of the implementing agency, City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO), and the Airports Authority of India, Ramesh said, "From an environment point of view, we are 65 per cent satisfied."

The meeting was a follow-up after experts from the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) went to Mumbai recently to check the situation on the ground.

Ramesh said the civil aviation ministry has agreed to make a major effort for mangrove protection. The original plan put to risk 400 acres of mangrove in the area. Now, CIDCO has agreed to reduce the space between the two airstrips, which would save a much larger patch of mangroves. It has also agreed to shift the non-essential elements of the airport away from the seaside.

The parties have also agreed that the earlier plans to divert the Gadhi River would be shelved and the airport built in a way that would ensure the river is not impacted.

But the contentious issue of the Ulwe River being diverted still remains. Moreover, it has been agreed that hills will be razed to accommodate the airport.