Navi Mumbai airport to become official today

Ending months of uncertainty, the 'green' signal for the Navi Mumbai airport, touted by the Maharashtra government and the union aviation ministry as the solution to Mumbai's flight congestion, is likely to come from the union ministry of environment and forests today.

Minister of state for environment Jairam Ramesh is expected to make an announcement to this effect jointly with union civil aviation minister Praful Patel and state chief minister Prithviraj Chavan at Maharashtra Sadan in New Delhi.

Chavan, who left for the capital on Sunday evening, is meeting with Ramesh today.

The MoEF seems satisfied that the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO), the state-run agency implementing the project, has addressed most of the green concerns; and the Experts Appraisal Committee, which is scrutinising the project, recommended the approval of the project to Ramesh last week.

However, the approval will come with a strict rider that all environmental concerns must be met post-clearance during the implementation stage. The MoEF is likely to insist on a foreign consultant to handhold the state to carry out all environmental safeguards during the actual construction phase.

It may take another year before the project finally takes off and work contracts are handed out as the proposed changes will take time.

The project site has attracted environmental controversy because it involves the diversion of a river and the flattening of two hills, apart from the inevitable decimation of forest cover, including ecologically sensitive mangrove forests. However the various departments concerned seem to have arrived at a via media, and there is no stopping the project now.