Karishma Ravindran, The Free Press Journal August 10 2016
Mumbai: With 250 hectare of land in prime forest area slotted for the proposed new airport at Navi Mumbai, environmentalists say that the project is an environmental disaster.
Of the proposed 2,268 hectares demarcated for the airport, 250 hectares fall in reserve forest land and mangroves – 141 hectares is reserved forest and 108 hectares is mangrove forest.
According to environmentalists, the new airport, planned as it is on a wetland, is environmental disaster waiting to happen. Executive trustee of Conservation Action Trust, Debi Goenka, said, “The authorities are planning to reclaim wetland by adding six metres of soil which can cause the area of Panvel and adjoining areas to be flooded in case of excessive rains. The proposed airport is an environment disaster.”
He said that the airport is could meet the same fate as the Chennai Airport during the recent floods in that city.
CIDCO, which is the planning authority for the proposed airport, had approached the ministry of environment and forest (MoEF) for forest clearance and obtained an in-principle clearance in December 2013.
CIDCO had also approached MoEF for forest clearance for Pushpak Nagar layout for rehabilitation of project affected persons of the proposed airport.
The layout involves 22.549 hectares of forest land. The MoEF has declined clearance for Pushpak Nagar on July 12, 2016.
In response to the MOEF decision, a CIDCO official said, “We are planning to revise the rehabilitation plan and keep it out of the forested area.”
Environmentalists in the city have also said that project authorities have violated the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules since the proposed airport is located on a wetland area.
Director of NGO Vanashakti, D Stain said, “The entire project area falls under the coastal wetland area which is against the CRZ rules. Also, the mudflats in the proposed area would be completely destroyed.”
Stalin also alleged that more mangroves would be taken away by the planning authorities after Bombay National History Society (BHNS) reports suggested making the proposed area unattractive for birds to avoid bird hits.
Stalin also explained the importance of conducting soil analysis to understand the texture of soil. “The soil analysis should have been conducted by the planning authorities before using the proposed land for the airport construction. It would have helped them understand the type of soil on which they are constructing the airport.”