Maharashtra government even after three years was granted a principal approval to utilise 250 hectares of forest land comprising dense mangrove forests for the Navi Mumbai International Airport has failed to fulfill the required conditions. The union ministry for environment, forests and climate change (MoEFCC) will appraise the project for a final forest clearance recommendation next week.
The Centre had laid down 33 conditions while granting the approval and documents show that the Maharashtra government is yet to fulfill some of the crucial ones, even as a proposal for the final recommendations is due. According to officials, the state report on compensatory afforestation and funds spent on it is not satisfactory. Further, the state was also required to settle forest rights under the Forest Rights Act, 2006, and submit the documents related to settling of the rights of tribals. But, the state government is yet to submit the requisite documents.
Most crucially, the approved relief and rehabilitation plan has not been submitted, showing non-compliance of the principal approval. The proposed airport is planned over an area of 1,160 hectares and will displace over 3,000 families from 18 villages. The Centre has also said that it is not convinced about relocation of a few project-affected persons on another piece of forest land. “Convincing justification for submitting a proposal for diversion of 22.5 hectare of reserved protected forest land for rehabilitation of project affected persons is in contradiction of the conditions of the Stage-I clearance.” The 2013 Stage-I clearance had explicitly mentioned that the state government should not use forest land for rehabilitation of villagers.
The land for Navi Mumbai International Airport site is largely marshy, covered by wetlands and mangroves and is a birding site. To asses the risk of birds to flights, the state government had commissioned avifaunal studies. Also, during its initial clearance, the Centre had stipulated that a boundary wall should be constructed and garbage issue should be minimised to accidents caused by birds and wild animals. As per the MoEFCC, the state government is yet to fulfill this conditions.