The State Board for Wildlife (Maharashtra) will decide the fate of the Navi Mumbai airport today, 24 Jan 2013.As stated in an earlier article, the airport land falls within 10 kms of the protected Karnala Bird sanctuary.
In early March 2012,Debi Goenka, of the Environment Action Trust, filed a complaint with the Chief conservator of Forests (Thane region) and he complained about it to Union environment secretary Tishya Chatterjee, asking the ministry to revoke the green clearance.
Goenka alleged that CIDCO officials had hidden the fact that:-
- The Land earmarked for the airport contained 321 acres of reserved forest area.(Reserved forest land cannot be destroyed to develop the land in any way).
- The Airport boundary wall is less than 10 kilometers from the Karnala bird sanctuary.(According to the Environment protection act,an airport cannot come up less than 10 kilometers from a wildlife sanctuary).
This was verified personally by Debi Goenka along with CIDCO officials. Later,the Chief conservator of forests conducted his own survey and found the allegations true. The distance was found to be less than 10 kms and the land revenue records showed that 321 acres were indeed Reserved forest Land.
Subsequently, the Chief conservator of forests, Mr.Pol, withdrew the permission saying “We have conveyed our objections to the principal secretary and the Navi Mumbai authority (CIDCO) will have to seek fresh permission from both the state wildlife advisory board and the central wildlife advisory board,” said Pol.
False Claims by CIDCO
Cidco claims that only 70 hectares of land falls under the eco sensitive zone (10 kms radius of Karnala bird sanctuary) and that Supreme court in its 2000 order had directed all state govts to mark eco sensitive zones coming under its jurisdiction and that State board of Wildlife had not yet earmarked the eco sensitive zone around Karnala bird sanctuary. However, interestingly, CIDCO officials cleverly avoid mentioning that the airport contains 321 acres of Reserved Forest area. Reserved forest areas cannot be developed under any circumstances. CIDCO had deliberately hidden this fact during the planning stages and later on.
The state board of wildlife will submit a report to the National board for Wildlife which will take a call on whether to give CIDCO the clearance or not.
The decision will be eagerly awaited.
Apart from these major hurdles, the proposed airport is also facing a land acquisition problem. It requires 2,042 hectares of land from which 1,405 hectares is already with CIDCO, but 485 hectares of land is privately-owned.
These private parties are demanding much larger compensation packages, thereby forcing infrastructure companies, including Larsen & Toubro, to question the viability of the entire project. Environmentalists are also putting pressure on the MoEF highlighting the ecological havoc the project will cause since it involves the diversion of two rivers, the Gadhi and Ulwe and the decimating of 400 acres of mangrove forests.
In the light of these ‘new’ developments, the actual construction work is unlikely to start before 2014,provided the green signal comes from the Ministry of Environment and forests as early as possible.
The tendering process is yet to begin and once the winning bidder bags the project, it will take another six to eight months for the feasibility studies. CIDCO, which was to commence the levelling and filling of the land before construction, now has to wait for these clearances from the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF)
In light of these developments, it is anybody’s guess when or if the airport will ever come up here.
In the meanwhile, investors and flat purchasers wait with baited breath for the final decision of the ministry.