The Supreme Court on Friday refused to lift its stay on the felling of trees at Mopa airport in Goa and asked the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) to revisit the recommendations it had given for the grant of environmental clearance. The EAC will have to revisit its decision within one month, the top court said. Until the said EAC submits its report, the top court has barred any other court or tribunal from entertaining any challenge to the report.
“Bearing in view the necessity to maintain a balance between the need for an airport and environmental concerns, we are of the view that it would be appropriate if the EAC is directed to revisit the conditions subject to which it granted its environmental clearance,” a two judge Bench of Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice Hemant Gupta said.
The government had in 2015 granted environmental clearance to build a proposed international airport at Mopa village in Goa at a cost of Rs 3,000 crore. The airport, which will be developed in four phases, is expected to have the capacity to handle 13.1 million passengers a year by 2045.
The environmental clearance for Mopa airport was challenged before the NGT by some residents of the state. The green tribunal had initially in 2017 issued an interim order restraining the cutting or felling of trees at the Mopa airport site. It was later changed as the state said it “shall not cut or fell any trees, nor allow it to take place without valid permission from the lawful authority for a fortnight thereafter in order to enable the appellants to pursue their remedies,”.
After several rounds of litigation, the case came to the Supreme Court, which ordered status quo on January 18.