airportEnvironment Minister Jairam Ramesh may be “willing to believe that there is no alternative to Navi Mumbai” as the site for a new airport in Mumbai, but his ministry’s expert panel examining the project has once again questioned the site and asked project developer CIDCO to submit more information on three other shortlisted ones. The Expert Appraisal Committee, which decides clearance of infrastructure projects, has said the information provided about the other sites, Wada, Ansoli and Kalyan, all of which have been rejected, was not sufficient and has asked CIDCO to carry out “alternative site suitability analysis” on these three. The Navi Mumbai airport project has once again run into a wall with the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests that has asked CIDCO to look for three alternative sites near Kalyan, about 54 km from Mumbai. The Maharashtra government agency has been asked to submit the survey on October 18 when the officials of Union Environment Ministry are scheduled to revisit the Navi Mumbai site. The Union Environment Ministry has put the environmental clearance to the Navi Mumbai airport on hold till CIDCO comes out with “satisfactory answers” explaining why it has not considered the alternative sites in Wada, Ansoli and Kalyan. The Union Environment Ministry has said, “CIDCO has been asked to carry out a survey of three alternatives sites in Thane district and explain why it never considered these options in its submission Union Environment Ministry on September 22. No survey has been carried out to establish CIDCO’s contention that these sites are not feasible.” CIDCO on the other hand is in no mood to survey other sites. A CIDCO official, has said “We have ruled out relocating the project to any site other than Navi Mumbai. There is no question of any more surveys for an alternative site.” However, the Environment Ministry will not take no for an answer. It has clearly stated that “Till CIDCO comes back to the Environment Ministry with the survey, permission to Navi Mumbai site will be on hold. We want to know the reasons why CIDCO prefers Navi Mumbai to these sites when apparently greater ecological damage is involved in the Navi Mumbai project.” Meanwhile Jairam Ramesh had said “I am willing to believe that there is no alternative to the Navi Mumbai site. I am ready to take it ahead from there. I have told (Civil Aviation Minister) Praful Patel that we need to sit down and discuss how to minimize the environmental damage at the Navi Mumbai site.” Asked about the his committee views that has asked CIDCO to get a survey done on the other sides, Jairam Ramesh did not hesitate to “A compromise can only be found at the political level. You cannot expect a technical body to look for a compromise.” This one is definitely now hard to understand, getting the environment clearance for Navi Mumbai airport could take as much as another couple of years. And if the survey does prove that either of the other three sites – Wada, Ansoli or Kalyan is better than Navi Mumbai, then it would mean bye – bye for airport dreams in Navi Mumbai. With bureau inputs, Sana Warsia – NMTV News.

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