Civil aviation ministry may scale down Navi Mumbai airport

The impasse over Mumbai's second international airport seems to have been resolved with civil aviation minister Praful Patel committing on Thursday the project could be scaled down if warranted and plans modified to reduce the environmental impact at the Navi Mumbai site.

According to indications the civil aviation ministry may agree to trim commercial add-ons like hotels to secure the environment ministry's nod which says the project as it now stands poses a threat to mangroves and would require diversion of two rivers.

With Patel convincing Ramesh of the unsuitability of other sites due to various technical reasons and offering assurances that he would convince City Industry and Development Corporation (Cidco) to substantially alter plans if required, the political decision on siting the second international airport could be finally veering towards the Navi Mumbai site.

According to reports Patel explained to Ramesh that with the 2004 cabinet decision, which requires all international airports to have two runways, all alternatives to the Navi Mumbai site stood disqualified.

Patel impressed on Ramesh that the Kalyan site could be ruled out because of the 2007 national security advisor's letter warning that the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre's operations in the area could turn the airport into a security hazard. He added that the Rewas Mundwa site was unsuitable due to poor connectivity with Mumbai.

Patel assured Ramesh that he would soon meet Cidco officials to look at ways to mitigate the environmental damage from a possible airport at Navi Mumbai with the two expected to meet again once Patel gets the plans revised from Cidco.