Airport or not? Asks Navi Mumbai

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Mumbai, 10 July 2010:  Ever since the public spat between Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel and Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, the Navi Mumbai airport plan is making headlines. NDTV travels to this satellite city on the outskirts of Mumbai, where the conflict is playing out.

Touted as the location for Mumbai’s second international airport, Navi Mumbai, is more than an hour away from the city.

Plush with vegetation all around, the rich mangrove belt around the site is the flash point of the conflict around the project.

If the new airport comes up at this proposed site, the mangrove belt, covering 400 acres will have to go. Two rivers will have to be diverted and a 90 metre hill up- right on the spot will have to be felled.

Therefore, the question: Is it too much to pay for?

Debi Goenka, member, Conservation Action Trust says, ’This is a low lying area which floods in the rain. So if you reclaim 2,000 acres of land, cut off 400 acres of mangroves and divert two rivers, where will all the sea and rain water go? It will impact the city.’’

These are the prime concerns that are viewed as hurdles before Mumbai’s need for a second airport is fulfilled and also concerns that have triggered a high-level spat at the Centre too.

The current airport has a capacity for 40 million passengers per year. However, it will soon exhaust and the dead line is 2013. The new airport is expected to cater to 60 million passengers.

Ashok Chavan, Chief Minister says, ’’The Union Minister is concerned about the environment, and so are we. But the fact is that the city needs another airport.’’

The state claims that it has answers for the hard questions being raised about the project. It says, 350 acres of mangroves will be planted at Dahanu and Palghar to compensate for the loss of the mangrove cover at the airport site. A technical study shows the river diversion won’t cause flooding, thereby waving off concerns of the environmentalists. All in all, Maharashtra government is pushing for the new airport, and is pushing hard.

 Being a mini world in itself, agreed that Mumbai needs an airport to rival Delhi’s new T3, but it’s also a city that can’t afford to damage its already fragile ecology. Hence, the big question remains. Can we risk development at the cost of the environment?


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