Chavan-led team meeting PM over Navi Mumbai airport today

Concerned over the determined opposition to the proposed new airport at Navi Mumbai by Jairam Ramesh's ministry of environment and forests on ecological grounds, the Maharashtra cabinet has decided to appeal directly to the prime minister.
Chief minister Ashok Chavan is leading a delegation of ministers, Congress leaders, and elected representatives to meet Manmohan Singh in New Delhi today Friday.

Apart from the airport, they will also plead for early environmental clearances for other infrastructure projects.

Topmost on the chief minister's agenda is of course the Rs9,700-crore airport spread over 2,500 acres in Navi Mumbai. While aviation minister Praful Patel has given the project his backing, the MoEF continues to block it, as it involves destruction of mangroves over 400 acres, altering the course of two rivers, and flattening of a green hillock.

"We will tell the PM that development is more important for Mumbai and convince him that environmental concerns will be taken care of by making necessary changes [in the original plan]," said a member of Chavan's delegation. State Congress chief Manikrao Thakre, Mumbai unit president Kripashankar Singh, revenue minister Narayan Rane and forest minister Patangrao Kadam will be part of the delegation.

This will be the second direct appeal to the prime minister. In July, several Congress-NCP MPs had called on the prime minister to seek clearance for the Navi Mumbai airport.

Both the Maharashtra government and the civil aviation ministry have refused to consider alternative sites. Last month, the confrontation between the MoEF and the aviation ministry showed some thawing as the latter agreed to cut down on the ancillary parts of the project like construction of hotels to minimise environmental damage.