The Experts’ Appraisal Committee (EAC), which is visiting the city to assess the proposed site of the Navi Mumbai international airport, has criticised the City and Industrial Development Corporation (Cidco) for ranking the site as the best by not rationally allocating the criteria for three other shortlisted sites — Wada, Ansoli and Kalyan.
EAC’s three-day visit, which begins tomorrow, is crucial. Especially when Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh on October 9 indicated there would be an agreement between his ministry and the civil aviation ministry on the proposed Navi Mumbai airport.
The committee observed that Cidco, a nodal agency for developing the proposed airport, has ranked the Navi Mumbai site as the best after giving importance to factors like cutting, filling with quantities, diversion of rivers, rehabilitation of the population and land acquisition.
However, EAC in its communication to Cidco, said: “Cidco has not submitted any financial implications of the mitigation measures at the above four sites or the costs of land acquisition. Approximately, 50 per cent of the cost of the first phase of development at Navi Mumbai is incurred mainly in making the site suitable for the airport, which includes cutting a 97-metre-high hill, filling of site up to 6.7 metre and diversion and training of the rivers.”
Further, EAC said, environmental costs and impacts, as well as the security considerations must also be added in the set of identified parameters for selecting alternative sites. Land acquisition as a parameter in this analysis was relatively less significant, it added.
EAC insisted that Cidco carry out an alternative site suitability analysis, as Wada, Ansoli and Kalyan seem to have more potential than Navi Mumbai. “Rejection of other sites on land acquisition considerations or location of the existing BARC High Pressure Physics Laboratory is not justified on environmental consideration. If the land acquisition criterion is removed, all the other three sites are more suitable as compared to the Navi Mumbai site. This aspect requires further detailed examination in terms of environmental damages associated with each of these sites. Cidco will undertake this exercise and intimate the results,” EAC said in its communication.
A Cidco official told Business Standard: “During the three-day meeting and visit to the site, Cidco will clarify its stands on EAC’s observation. One thing is clear that there is no alternative to the Navi Mumbai site. Still, Cidco will submit its analysis reports on other sites.”
Moreover, EAC has asked Cidco to re-examine the possibility of hydrologically designing a few kilometres of the Ulwe river as a through channel for the required discharge without changing its natural alignment, after ensuring least interference or damage to the mangroves.
In case the runways are staggered, the location of the terminal building could also be shifted eastward to avoid being positioned above the river. “It was also mentioned that in similar circumstances, the Chennai airport is constructing an effective runway passing over the Adyar river. The ministry has issued an environmental clearance to this project. Cidco will re-examine and revert,” EAC said.
However, the Cidco official said the distance between the two proposed runways could not be reduced from 1,800 metres to 1,600 metres affecting the viability of the airport.