Just when the Navi Mumbai real estate market seemed set to take-off and builders were ‘factoring in’ the Airport into prices of flats in the vicinity of the airport due to the green signal of the Environment ministry, comes another bombshell sure to make people wonder whether this project will ever see the light of day.
In early March 2012,Debi Goenka,of the Environment Action Trust,filed a complaint with the Chief conservator of Forests (Thane region) and he complained about it to Union environment secretary Tishya Chatterjee, asking the ministry to revoke the green clearance.
Goenka alleged that CIDCO officials had hidden the fact that:-
- The Land earmarked for the airport contained 321 acres of reserved forest area. (Reserved forest land cannot be destroyed to develop the land in any way).
- The Airport boundary wall is less than 10 kilometers from the Karnala bird sanctuary. (According to the Environment protection act, an airport cannot come up less than 10 kilometers from a wildlife sanctuary).
This was verified personally by Debi Goenka along with CIDCO officials. Later, the Chief conservator of forests conducted his own survey and found the allegations true. The distance was found to be less than 10 kms and the land revenue records showed that 321 acres were indeed Reserved forest Land.
Apart from these major hurdles, the proposed airport is also facing a land acquisition problem. It requires 2,042 hectares of land from which 1,405 hectares is already with CIDCO, but 485 hectares of land is privately-owned.
These private parties are demanding much larger compensation packages, thereby forcing infrastructure companies, including Larsen & Toubro, to question the viability of the entire project. Environmentalists are also putting pressure on the MoEF highlighting the ecological havoc the project will cause since it involves the diversion of two rivers, the Gadhi and Ulwe and the decimating of 400 acres of mangrove forests.
In the light of these ‘new’ developments, the actual construction work is unlikely to start before 2014, provided the green signal comes from the Ministry of Environment and forests as early as possible.
The tendering process is yet to begin and once the winning bidder bags the project, it will take another six to eight months for the feasibility studies. CIDCO, which was to commence the levelling and filling of the land before construction, now has to wait for these clearances from the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF)
In light of these developments, it is anybody’s guess when or if the airport will ever come up here.
In the meanwhile, investors and flat purchasers wait with baited breath for the final decision of the ministry.