Livemint: October, 2015
New Delhi: Brushing aside concerns, the environment ministry on Wednesday granted clearance to a proposed international airport at Mopa village in Goa to be built at a cost of Rs.3,000 crore.
The approval for the project, however, drew flak from environmentalists, who have repeatedly flagged flaws in the project. They said they would approach the National Green Tribunal (NGT) against the environmental clearance.
The clearance came after the ministry’s expert appraisal committee (EAC) recommended it at its meeting on 20 October.
Close to the border with Maharashtra, Mopa is located in north Goa, around 35km north of Panaji, the state’s capital.
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. A total of 2,271 acres is required for the project, which will require an investment of Rs.3,000 crore.
In the first phase, the Goa government would develop one runway, with a half parallel taxiway and three runway exits by 2020 to handle 4.4 million passengers at an estimated cost of Rs.1,500 crore. The Goa government has said tenders for the Mopa airport would be finalized by December.
“As per the recommendation of the expert appraisal committee (EAC), the MoEFCC hereby accords environment clearance (EC) for the project—greenfield international airport at Mopa,” the environment ministry said in a letter dated Wednesday to the Goa government.
The environmental clearance is subject to conditions like consent from the state pollution control board to ensure availability of adequate land at the junction of the Mopa airport road and Mumbai-Goa national highway for traffic circulation, water conservation measures including rain water harvesting and energy conservation measures.
Environmentalists said they would file an appeal in NGT against the clearance.
“We are all shocked with the decision because EIA (environmental impact assessment) study had many flaws and inspite of us pointing them out, environment clearance has been given. We will definitely approach NGT against the order,” said Abhijit Prabhudesai of the Federation of Rainbow Warriors, an environmental activist group.
The project was considered by the EAC at its 9 September meeting wherein it asked Goa to respond to environmental concerns raised by the Federation of Rainbow Warriors, Margao (Goa).
In a letter flagging its concerns, the federation said the EIA study and report ignored potential harm to the protected Western Ghats corridor of Sawantwadi-Dodamarg and missed out hydro-geological features of the plateau like perennial springs.
It also alleged that the EIA report failed to consider socioeconomic aspects of the area being cleared for project, and potential damage to the rich flora and fauna of the region; hundreds of thousands of trees would have to be cut down to make way for the project, the federation said.
Following that, the EAC sought a response from the Goa government, which on 28 September, sent a detailed point-wise reply brushing aside the concerns. Agreeing with Goa, the EAC recommended that environmental clearance be granted to the project.