There is no question of shifting the proposed Navi Mumbai airport despite objections raised by the environment ministry, the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the City and Industrial Development Corporation have said.
The environment ministry has objected to the fact that around 115 hectares (or 7.3 per cent) of total land for the project is mangrove forest. It recently conveyed this to both Cidco and the civil aviation ministry. The matter is now with the prime minister's office.
Cidco Vice-Chairman and Managing Director GS Gill said the corporation had sought an appointment with the environment ministry officials to make another presentation on the project in the next 10 days.
Cidco is also considering appointing a technical agency other than the current assigned agencies - Indian Institute of Technology (Mumbai) and Pune-based Central Water and Power Research Institute - for feasibility studies and mitigating measures.
The proposed airport at Panvel is to come up on 2,053 hectares, of which 78 per cent is already with the government. The project cost is Rs 4,765 crore (Rs 47.65 billion).
"The present site has been selected after exhausting other possible sites like Mandava and the remote Sindhudurg area. These would have been more detrimental to the environment," said Gill.
This line of thought is seconded by the civil aviation ministry. "It is not a joke to get 3,000 acres in Mumbai. The site has got approvals from highest technical committees like the National Coastal Zone Regulation Committee and the International Civil Aviation Organisation. If there are environmental issues, these can be mitigated and a specialised technical body assigned to look into the matter," said a well-placed source in the civil aviation ministry.
The objections will not create a roadblock to the project, Gill says. Cidco recently appointed US firm Louis Berger as a partner for structuring the bidding process, to be completed by early next year.
"Right now we are hoping the issue will be resolved in a month or two. We will not have to apply any brakes as far as the pace of the project is concerned. But if the matter lingers for more than a month or two, we will have to slow the pace and devote more time and investment to technical feasibility studies," said Gill.