The Bombay High Court has rejected a plea by City and Industrial Development Corporation (Cidco), the nodal agency for the proposed Navi Mumbai International Airport, to exempt the airport project from Forest Conservation Act clearances. “Cidco will have to obtain permission from the appropriate authority in relation to Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) restrictions as also separately from the Forest Authority, both of the Government of India. Only after such permission is granted by the said authorities, the court may consider the matter further, after taking into account objections, if any,” the high court said in its order on January 18.
The high court has also asked the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to expeditiously consider Cidco’s applications for clearance under the Forest Conservation Act for the Navi Mumbai International Airport and other projects provided the former had made applications in this regard.
The high court observed that from the record, it was noticed that Cidco had not made any such applications so far. “If it is already made, we in no manner doubt that the appropriate authority of the Government of India, dealing with the issue of CRZs and forests, shall decide the said application expeditiously, keeping in mind that the permission sought is for the construction of a link road, which is in public interest. If no application has been made for a grant of permission by Cidco so far, that may be made within one week from today to the concerned authorities who in turn shall decide the same expeditiously, in accordance with law and preferably within four weeks from the date of receipt thereof,” the high court said.
The court’s order in response to Cidco’s plea came after a petition was filed by the Bombay Environment Action Group due to the fact that the area covered by the proposed airport includes 110 hectares of mangrove forest.
Cidco had pleaded that the clearance under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 was unnecessary and could be dispensed with especially when the government had declared mangrove areas as ‘protected forest area’.
On January 17, a high-level team led by Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Lakhwinder Singh had visited the project site to check the present status of mangroves.
A Cidco official confirmed that the company is yet to receive forest clearance for the Navi Mumbai International Airport. “The central team has conducted a visit to the project site, especially of the land currently covered by the mangroves. Cidco has already proposed mangrove plantation adjacent to the airport project site on 415 hectares,” the official told Business Standard. He added that Cidco would follow the high court’s order.
A total of 1,160 hectares of land have been proposed for the airport project of which, mangroves are currently spread over 110 hectares. Nearly 80 per cent of the land is in Cidco's acquisition. However, Cidco's negotiations with Project Affected Persons (PAPs) for the acquisition of 291 hectares are incomplete.
Although the PAPs have dropped their earlier demand of compensation of Rs 20 crore per acre, they are pressing for being provided 40 per cent developed land. However, Cidco has offered 22 per cent of developed land."Cidco has submitted its proposal in this regard to the state cabinet which is expected to give its approval in the near future," the official said.
The next hearing in the case will be on February 21.