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IS IT TIME TO BID FINAL GOOD BYE TO NAVI MUMBAI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT? – THAT’S OUR WEEKEND EXCLUSIVE REPORT

airport-1Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh continues to the red flag to the Navi Mumbai Intl. Airport. During the last visit to Mumbai, the Union Minister said that they are not going to give any relaxation on giving environment clearances to projects near polluted clusters which they have notified, including the Navi Mumbai Intl. Airport. This diktat will stay until the state does not correct the anti-environment aspects of the project. So is it time to bid final Good Bye to Navi Mumbai Intl. Airport? – that’s on our weekend exclusive today. This man is in no mood to make any comprises with environment to make the Navi Mumbai International Airport. And his latest official statement to the media hints that the dreams of having an international airport in Navi Mumbai are finally over. Addressing a press conference on climate change at Nariman Point recently, Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has said, and I quote, “We are not going to give any relaxation on giving clearances to projects near polluted clusters which we have notified,” unquote. This is the third time the Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has spoken against given an environment clearance to Navi Mumbai Intl. Airport. Prior to this it was in July last year and January this year that the ministry had restricted environmental clearances Navi Mumbai Airport. This week elaborating the reasons in Mumbai, Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh explicated, “Because the airport site is ecologically sensitive, we have looked into the terms put forth by the government and asked it to add some bits that will be environmentally viable. The notification remains until we see visible changes made by state government.” This public statement comes 7 months after the last letter from the Union Environment Minister to Maharashtra government in August 2009. The scathing letter suggested that the state should look for another site for a second international airport for the country’s financial capital. The letter had pointed that the chosen site includes 150 hectares of mangrove land and 340 hectares of coastal marshy land, including 118 hectares of water bodies. On all these occasions the Union Minister has made it clear that the original mangroves are irreplaceable and no compensatory afforestation is possible. Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh had written to the CM pointing out that eminent scientists have warned of the grave danger that the second airport project poses at the site and that the site is of great ecological value and should not be harmed – something that even the greens have been saying for years. He stated that airport site need not be in crucial mangrove land. Despite the Union Environment Minister’s continuously making it clear that they will not give an environment clearance to the project, the state government has been misguiding citizens on the status for years. Who doesn’t remember the confidence with which Chief Minister Ashok Chavan had spoken about the project during Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh’s visit to Mumbai prior to Lok Sabha elections? And later, the Chief Minister Ashok Chavan echoed the same in the state assembly of July 2009. On both the occasions, the Chief Minister Ashok Chavan was definitely not giving out factual status of the airport project as is evident now from the public statements of Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh. Perhaps that’s why, when the NCP got a chance, Dy. Chief Minister Chagan Bhujbal mocked at the status of the project saying that environment clearance to the Navi Mumbai Intl. Airport was pending for years and the problem persists because the state government is doing it. He said, hand over the project to the Ambanis and there will be no obstacles in getting the clearance for the international airport. While the state government is on a spree of misguiding and mocking at the Union Environment Ministry’s stance, they fail to understand that there is a reason why the center is against the project. It’s because, for its construction – the course of two rivers, Ulwe and Gadhi will have to be changed and embankments constructed for three rivers- Kusadi, Kalundri and Taloja. Waghivli Island will have to be reclaimed for the airport and two hills would be flattened. Natives of the controversial site have time and again spoken to NMTV News of how the area would go under water if the airport was built there. According to noted environmentalist Debi Goenka it isn’t just the go-ahead of Environment Ministry but several other clearances that are yet to be obtained for the Navi Mumbai Intl. Airport. So its clear – no matter what how much the state claims about starting operations at the Navi Mumbai International by 2013, the Union Environment Ministry’s red flag has aborted the plans of the take off indefinitely. The state just does not seem to be taking the disastrous effects of global warming seriously. Perhaps that’s why they are not budging from the present airport site that spells doom for environment in the area. The relief is that the Center has taken a tough stand on the environment destruction that the project involves. With Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh making his third public disapproval to the airport site, perhaps it is time to bid final farewell to the Navi Mumbai Intl Airport.

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