India approves new airport for Mumbai

NEW DELHI, November 22, 2010 (AFP) – India gave the green light on Monday for the construction of a second international airport in the commercial capital Mumbai, a two billion dollar project that was ten years in the making. “Today, formally the environmental clearance has been given to the Navi Mumbai Project,” Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh told a press conference in New Delhi.

The massive new 90 billion rupee airport will be situated in Navi Mumbai or New Mumbai, a booming suburb 50 kilometres (30 miles) southeast of the centre of the city of 18 million people.

Environmentalists had opposed the project on the grounds that it would upset the delicate ecological balance of nearby protected tidal wetland areas.

Under the initial plans, thousands of hectares of mangrove trees and shrubs, which act as a natural buffer against the sea and coastal erosion, would have been removed and waterways re-routed .

“If they want, they can start construction of the airport from today,” Ramesh said. “From an environmental point of view, this has been a very major compromise that has been reached.”

Ramesh said the compromise would save part of the mangroves and avoid moving one of the rivers. A hill in the area w