The state government has one good reason to pull the plug on the Navi Mumbai airport. Scrapping a project that has been in the pipeline for 15 years would work for the better in the long run as it will surely bring down realty rates in Navi Mumbai and hit the politician-developer nexus hard.
“A handful of people are blackmailing the government by taking advantage of the decision to build an airport there. These are not poor farmers, but land sharks who have purchased land from farmers in cahoots with local politicians and are negotiating to make a killing for themselves,” said urban development expert Chandrashekhar Prabhu.
“If the government scraps the airport, 6,000 hectares of land will be available in the open market and that will drastically reduce realty prices in Navi Mumbai.” He said such a scenario would be a nightmare for the satellite city’s politicians and developers.
Typical of the Mumbai model of on-paper development, the politician-builder nexus has been milking the non-existent airport for over a decade. They have been jacking up realty prices at every stage of the airport’s clearance. Real estate prices in the catchment area of the airport have trebled in 10 years, riding on the hype surrounding the project.
Ironically, the man who is negotiating on behalf of the farmers, local MLA Vivek Patil, is sceptical about the feasibility of the airport.
“The airport should come up at a place which is out of city limits.
Cidco has developed nodes like Kharghar, Kalamboli, New Panvel, Ulwe, Dronagiri, etc which surround the airport project and it’s Cidco that floated the idea of an airport. It is beyond my understanding,” said Patil.
Patil said unless the Sewri-Nhava Sheva Trans-Harbour Link comes up, there will be no connectivity between Mumbai and Navi Mumbai, failing the very objective of decongesting the Mumbai airport. Incidentally, the Trans-Harbour project has also been stuck for 15 years.
Industry observers said that had the state acquired land first before announcing the project, the airport would be a reality. “It is the government and Cidco’s fault to announce the project first.
Now, these people’s demands are growing daily,” said realty expert Madan Kumar.
Cidco’s plan to promote Ulwe and Dronagiri as gateways to the airport has fallen flat. “What we need is a railway station, not airport,” said resident Srikrishna Goswami.
Developers are hopeful that talks with land owners succeed. “After all the years, it’s down to one last hurdle,” said Devang Trivedi, secretary, Builders’ Association of Navi Mumbai. He said the delay and rising cost are concerns but if the airport comes up, it will impact Navi Mumbai’s overall development. Clearly, the operational word is ‘if’.
Scenario if project is scrapped
The proposed Navi Mumbai airport has been in the pipeline for 15 years now. Should the state government cancel the much-hyped project, it will result in a sharp decline in the realty prices in the satellite city, which have trebled in the last decade.
The politician-developer nexus, which has been cashing in on the proposed project, will be hit hard. Farmers and citizens are unlikely to be adversely affected.
Stakeholders paint a grim picture
Local MLA Vivek Patil, who has been negotiating on behalf of the farmers, is sceptical about the feasibility of the proposed airport as there is no connectivity between Mumbai and Navi Mumbai.
Local residents say they need a railway station from where they can go to their offices, not an airport. The developer fraternity, however, wants the project to go through for the overall development of Navi Mumbai.
Many milestones, but miles to go
1997 Ministry of civil aviation constituted a committee to examine various sites for a second airport for Mumbai. Rewas-Mandwa was recommended as suitable site
2000 A sub-committee constituted by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) examined the Navi Mumbai site and found it technically and operationally feasible
2001 Cidco submitted technical reports and AAI suggested carrying out simulation study to examine the inter-operability of two airports (Mumbai and Navi Mumbai) in a single airspace
2006 International Civil Aviation Organisation conducted simulation study sponsored jointly by Cidco/GoM & AAI. Study said simultaneous operation is possible
2007 Cidco submitted project feasibility and business plan to civil aviation ministry which obtained an in-principle approval from the Union cabinet
2008 Cidco appointed consortium led by M/s Louis Berger Group (LBG), Inc USA as prime consultant for the proposed airport’s development and state granted approval for development of Navi Mumbai International Airport (NMIA) on PPP basis, appointing Cidco as nodal agency for its implementation
2009 Bombay high court accepted Cidco’s request for amendment of CRZ notifications and MoEF issued notification permitting greenfield airport at Navi Mumbai in CRZ areas, subject to environmental safeguards
2010 Environment and CRZ clearance for NMIA project granted by MoEF
2013 Forest department gave last of the mandatory clearances for airport, only land acquisition remains for the project to take off