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Will the Navi Mumbai airport ever take off?

Last updated on: October 7, 2010 08:32 IST

Will the Navi Mumbai airport ever take off?

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Deepa Menon in Mumbai


Will the Navi Mumbai airport materialise in the near future?

This is the question that crops up time and again in the mind of every Mumbaikar. Though the proposal has been going back and forth between the Union ministry for civil aviation the Union environment ministry, the green ministry is yet to give a green signal to the project citing environmental concerns.

The central Expert Appraisal Committee had asked the City and Industrial Development Corporation of Maharashtra Ltd (CIDCO), to do a fresh study and submit report for the proposed Navi Mumbai airport.

This adds more hurdles ahead for the second airport in Mumbai which is expected to start operations in 2012.

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Image: Proposed site for Navi Mumbai international airport

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The 13-member Expert Appraisal Committee constituted for the Navi Mumbai second airport project is expected to visit the proposed site after October 18.

Though Union Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel has high hopes on the proposed Navi Mumbai Airport Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh is fighting tooth and nail against this project.

According to Jairam Ramesh ecological issues need to be addressed immediately. Construction of the airport would destroy 400 acres of mangroves, he added.

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Image: Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh and Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel.

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Will the Navi Mumbai airport materialise in the near future?

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The new airport is proposed over 2,000 hectares near Panvel, which is about 35 km away from the existing Mumbai airport.

Arun Mokashi, a transportation specialist formerly with the World Bank and who is currently working on CIDCO's Navi Mumbai region plan, is of the strong opinion that that the airport should come at Navi Mumbai at any cost.

"If you look at most successful airports in the world, the controversies were always associated with them in the initial stages. They had a hell lot of obstacles before them. But they overcame all those. Similarly, the Navi Mumbai airport too will materalise," said Mokashi.

According to him, if the airport does not come it will lead to many a disaster at Mumbai's existing Chhatrapati Shivaji airport.

The number of passengers that the airport is handling today will increase manifold in another few years. In such a scenario it will be difficult to manage the surge in the number of passengers. Also, this could lead to accidents because of the lack of space for the arrival and departure of flights.

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Image: Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai.

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The cost of the project, which is being developed through the public-private partnership route, was estimated at between Rs 3,200 crore (Rs 32 billion) and Rs 4,000 crore (Rs 40 billion). Though according to CIDCO, the total cost of the airport will be about Rs 9,970 crore (Rs 99.7 billion).

The airport is expected to have a terminal area of 250,000 sq mt and a cargo area of 100,000 sq mt.

Earlier, the Expert Appraisal Committee and the ministry of environment and forests had asked CIDCO to consider moving the 222-hectare Special Economic Zones in the south of the site to another area.

It had also asked to shorten the distance between runways and save the diversion of Gadhi river so that the Panvel city is not affected by floods during rains.

"I don't know whether the new airport will materialise or not. But as far as Mumbai is concerned the second airport is a necessity. It will be very helpful to Maharashtra's growth," said Rajeev Kashikar, managing director, Konig & Cie. Asia Advisors Pvt Ltd.

Rajeev who travels extensively is of the opinion that this airport should have come 10 years back considering burgeoning the air traffic in Mumbai.

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Image: The entrance of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus airport

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As the project consultant with Louis Berger Group had informed the state government that the changes were feasible without diverting Gadhi river, experts now hope that the project will get green signal.

The operation of diverting the river is known as channel trenching of the river. It helps to give right protection for banks of Gadhi river.

According to the officials of Louis Berger and Cidco, by trenching the river, diversion can be averted and it will not affect the passenger and aircraft capacity of the airport.

Earlier, an area of 161.50 hectares has been found to be affected due to the airport project, based on a Satellite Remote Sensing Study.

The Bombay high court had ordered to plant double the area of mangroves that will he destroyed due to the airport. Accordingly, 350 hectares has been identified for plantation of mangroves at Dahanu taluka of Thane district.

The traffic will get more affected in the Navi Mumbai area though it is good to have an airport nearby, said Sheela Ravi, a teacher working in Navi Mumbai.

But Mumbai being the commercial capital of India requires another airport to manage the crowd that is pouring in to the city, she adds.



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