Even as a three-member committee of experts began a review of options for the contentious second Mumbai airport, now a political issue, the Union civil aviation ministry is stressing why the idea of an alternative site at Kalyan was grounded in 2007.
In August 2007, former national security advisor (NSA) M K Narayanan had communicated to the then chief minister, Vilasrao Deshmukh, that the airport could not come up there, on 1,800 acres of defence ministry land, as the area was near the site for a research and development laboratory of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC). That BARC site could not be shifted, the NSA had said.
“The Maharashtra government had sought NSA’s opinion. NSA had clearly stated that as the BARC laboratory was being constructed in the adjacent area, the land was not suitable for airport development on safety and security grounds. The area around is already declared as a no-development zone,” civil aviation ministry sources told Business Standard.
BARC sources confirmed that a sophisticated laboratory was under construction in Kalyan.
State government officials said thereafter Kalyan had not been even considered an alternative site. The government and its undertaking, City and Industrial Development Corporation, have been pursuing Navi Mumbai as an alternative option.
Kalyan re-emerged as an alternative to the controversial Navi Mumbai site recently, with Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh saying he’d sent on requests of three MPs from Thane district (where Kalyan is) to the expert appraisal committee.