SC clears way for Mopa International Airport at Goa

Supreme Court clears way for Mopa International Airport at Goa

The proposed greenfield airport would have a capacity to handle 4.4 million passengers in Phase–I, 13 million in Phase II and 30 million in Phase III annually

Representative image (Reuters Photo)

The Supreme Court on Thursday cleared the way for an international airport at Mopa in Goa, by lifting the restrictions on construction activity and asking the state and the concessionaire to comply with all original as well as additional conditions, including those on the need to preserve the biodiversity of the Western Ghats.

A bench of Justice D Y Chandrachud and Hemant Gupta passed its order on an application by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, seeking a direction that the minutes of the 40th meeting of the Expert Appraisal Committee of April 23, 2019 should be taken on the record for lifting the embargo imposed by this court on the environmental clearance for the greenfield airport.

The bench, however, appointed a specialised body, the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) to oversee compliance with the directions cumulatively issued by this court.

The order came as a huge relief for the Goa government and the project concessionaire GMR Goa International Airport Limited. The construction of an airport at Mopa Goa has been on the drawing board for nearly two decades. The existing airport at Dabolim, being a defence establishment, has restricted flight operations with no parking facilities at night for international charter flights. It was intended to serve four million passengers annually while the traffic was about 7.5 million annually.

The proposed greenfield airport would have a capacity to handle 4.4 million passengers in Phase–I, 13 million in Phase II and 30 million passengers in Phase III annually.

Acting on an appeal by Hanuman Laxman Aroskar, the apex court had on March 29, 2019, suspended the environmental clearance granted by the Centre to the proposed international airport and directed the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of the environment ministry to revisit its recommendation.

It had then overturned the decision of not just the ministry but also of the National Green Tribunal, which gave a green signal to the project.

After the fresh look, the court noted the net result is that the concessionaire has been subjected to a slew of mitigatory conditions: 53 in the original environmental clearance, 16 at the behest of NGT and 40 imposed by the EAC in the second round.

“It cannot be said that the EAC has ignored the concerns, highlighted by this court, related to forests; Western Ghats; and flora and fauna. The EAC has adequately addressed these concerns and laid down additional conditions to ensure the adequate protection of the environment.

Appearing for the MoEF and CC, Additional Solicitor General submitted A N S Nadkarni submitted nearly three lakh trees, 50,000 at the site and 2,50,000 in nearby villages within 15 km would be planted, duly supervised by the Biodiversity board. Besides this, 2,50,000 trees are to be planted and monitored by the DGCA. He rebutted the contention that the project would impinge upon wildlife corridors. The nearest identified corridor was on the boundary of the States of Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra, far away from the project site.

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