Study finds Navi Mumbai 'acceptable' for new airport

Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh's repeated refusal to clear the Navi Mumbai site for a new airport on the grounds that the project involves diversion of rivers, hacking of mangroves and flattening of hillocks, has drawn sharp criticism from the state administration.

The planners in Mantralaya are shocked over Ramesh's adverse comments on site selection even as the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF)-affiliated committee of experts is conducting a third-party investigation into site's environmental feasibility, according to a Times of India report.

Mumbai's proposed second airport, estimated to cost Rs9,600 crore, is now in the final round of debate on its environmental feasibility.

A new study by The Louis Berger Group, Washington DC, along with CIDCO, has termed the Navi Mumbai site as `suitable and acceptable' for Mumbai's second airport. The study has rejected the other 16 options on topographical and technical grounds.

The study, which screened sites within a 100-km radius of Mumbai airport, has been submitted to the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) on the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) and infrastructure. The EAC had, during its last meeting, demanded that this study be carried out. Discussion on the report is expected in Delhi soon.

The Cidco has already handed over an environment impact assessment study conducted by IIT-Bombay and Central Water and Power Research Station (CWPRS), Pune, to the EAC. A report on public hearing over environmental and resettlement issues, conducted by Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) and CIDCO, too has been submitted.

The MoEF has asked the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) to conduct a parallel survey on the environmental feasibility of the Navi Mumbai airport site.

The study shows that 80-85 per cent domestic and international traffic is generated from the Greater Mumbai region and only 4-10 per cent is from outside the Mumbai metropolitan region. The island city and western suburbs aside, Navi Mumbai leads the tally of passenger potential for the airport.