Overlooking wildlife corridor and rich water source, MoEF clears Mopa airport in Goa

Overlooking major environmental concerns of locals and green groups, the ministry of environment and forests has granted a green clearance for Goa's second airport to be built in Mopa village at a cost of Rs3000 crore. The ministry's expert appraisal committee had recommended the project for clearance in its last meeting on October 20, and even before making its minutes public, the ministry granted it a final environmental clearance. The airport project requires a total of 2,271 acres and it will be built in four phases.

The ministry's green clearance has come with certain caveats. The proposed airport has to obtain a 'consent to establish' permission from the State Pollution Control Board and also has to ensure availability of land near the proposed airport for managing traffic near the NH17 junction. Besides, for water conservation, the project proponent has to provide fixtures and rain water harvesting too has to be adopted.

The project's clearance, though, does not make any mention of an active wildlife corridor close to the airport site. The airport site falls in the same region which is a continuation of the Sawantwadi-Dodamarg wildlife corridor of Maharashtra, that is used by tigers and migrating elephant herd.

The proposed greenfield airport has Goans divided on several issues ranging from environment, tourism and land. While the current airport is located at Dabolim in Goa's centre, the new proposed airport in Mopa is located in the northern most region, close to Maharashtra's Sindhudurg district.

While laying down general and specific conditions for the airport, locals said that the ministry has overlooked the fact that the plateau where the project will be built is a rich source of water for local farmers. Further, the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report of the airport was heavily criticised during the project's public hearing, where locals said that the report did not take into account the flora and fauna found near the project site.

"The Mopa plateau is rich in biodiversity where Bisons and Leopards have been sighted. The flora and fauna of the site is similar to that of the Western Ghats, but this did not even figure in EIA report. At the public hearing, tribals from Dhangar community too had protested against the project but the clearance does not make any mention of these protests," said Ramesh Gawas, an activist from Bicholim.

Source URL: DNA India