The last hurdle in the way of a second airport for Mumbai, at Navi Mumbai, was cleared by the central government on Monday.
The Union ministry of environment and forests issued a notification granting exemption to the second airport from costal regulatory zone regulations, on the lines of an earlier exemption granted for an airport at Port Blair in the Andamans.
The state government has now set a deadline of March next year to complete the bidding process and award the contract, and make the airport partially operational by 2013, to its town and industrial infrastructure arm, CIDCO, nodal agency for the project.
The preliminary report on the project has been given by the consultants and their final report should come by August 30. Then, by the end of September, bids for the project will be invited. The process of inviting financial bids will be completed by mid-February and by March-end, the contract will be awarded.
And in May next year, the MoU with the developer will be signed and the foundation stone laid, informs a press release issued by the chief minister's office. The project will be implemented on a build, operate and transfer basis.
Earlier this month, the high court here had issued an order which enabled MoEF to issue such an exemption for the second airport project. After which, state government officials were expecting the formal notification from the Union government once the electoral process was over.
Earlier in January, state chief minister Ashok Chavan wrote a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who also holds the MoEF portfolio, requesting the exemption from CRZ regulations.
However in March, MoEF sent a letter to the state expressing its inability to grant such an exemption. The letter had cited a HC order directing both state and central government to provide protection to the mangrove forest in the CRZ zone.
The state government then petitioned the HC to allow MoEF to exempt the second airport from CRZ rules. The HC did so after the state assured it would replant the mangroves elsewhere. Beside removing the mangrove forest, developer will also have to do some land filling in the creek and marshy land along the coast.
The airport is expected to come up on 2,000 hectares of land, with an investment of around Rs. 10,000 crore (Rs 100 billion), near Panvel.
At present, Mumbai's Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport handles around 2.5 million passengers annually and it increases by around 600,000 every year. Even after an ongoing modernisation and expansion programme, the airport is expected to get saturated by 2013.