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Nov 10, 2010 at 10:22pm IST

Navi Mumbai airport: runway construction cleared

Mumbai: The construction of Navi Mumbai airport's runway has been finally cleared. The decision on the controversial international airport in Navi Mumbai was taken at the meeting of an expert group on Wednesday.

Two hundred acres of mangroves have to be chopped, a river to be diverted, a hill to be flattened, and a bio-diversity park have to be built for this airport.

However, no shops are to be shifted to SEZ area and no construction work to be done on the northeastern side so as to preserve the mangroves.

Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh and Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel, both had said that some compromises had been made by both sides to take the project forward, while addressing environmental concerns.

The environment ministry's 13-member Expert Appraisal Committee, set up to examine all the issue, took note of the changes proposed in the airport project plan and then gave the verdict.

The environment ministry has been of the view that the construction of an airport at the proposed site in Navi Mumbai, some 20 km from the main city, will lead to destruction of a mangrove forest and diversion of two small rivers.

The ministry also objected to the project on the ground that it would lead to the blasting of an 80-metre-high hill which falls in the path of the runway.

"The mangrove issue has been solved so has Gadhi river issue as it will not be diverted. But the mountain has to be blasted, since there is a need for a second runway. The only issue that remains is the diversion of Ulwe river," Ramesh had said.

"The government of Maharashtra and the Ministry of Civil Aviation have been sensitive to our concerns," he said, adding: "Our concerns have been met substantially, compromises have been made and both the sides have demonstrated great amount of flexibility."

The compromise was reached after the City and Industrial Development Corp of Maharashtra submitted a revised proposal to the expert panel in which the distance between the two runways was reduced by 300 metres to ensure the two small rivers are not diverted.

Planned as a public-private partnership, the project is proposed with 74 per cent equity with the private players and the remaining 26 per cent divided equally between the state run Airports Authority of India and the City and Industrial Development Corp of Maharashtra.

The project, proposed at a distance of some 35 km from the existing Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, was chosen as the area is expected to absorb the future growth in population, business and commercial activity of the region.

Around 1,140 hectares of land has already been earmarked for it, officials said. It is expected to handle 10 million passengers in its first operational year, doubling to 20 million in eight years. The ultimate aim is the airport's handling capacity of 40 million.

(with inputs from IANS)

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