Chhatrapati Shivaji Intl airport expansion hits air pocket again

Written by Shaheen Mansuri | Mumbai, Dec 7 | Updated: Dec 8 2007, 07:17am hrs
The expansion of the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport has once again hit a roadblock. This time, its not the 276 acres of encroached land, but a privately-owned 16 acre-plot that houses Our Lady of Health Church, a school attached to it and a graveyard. The landowners, who also include residential colonies and commercial establishments, are hell-bent not to allow the state government land acquisition surveyors to survey their property, unless the Airport Authority of India (AAI) or Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) submits them a blueprint of their plans pertaining to their land.

Says Father Alwyn, assistant parish priest at Our Lady of Health Church, Sahar, The church is 400 years old and any place of worship cannot be relocated. Secondly, if the residents are rehabilitated, what is the use of a church in an isolated place

Dolphy D Souza, president of the Bombay Catholic Sabha, added that on November 26, land surveyors were to visit the locality at Sahar, but fearing the ire of the locals, the officials did not turn up. He complains, None of the authorities have informed us why our land is to be surveyed. We assume that the proposed expansion of the airport on our land will mainly be catering to the demands of shopping malls, conventions centres and five star hotels.

However, an official from MIAL says, The land which is being referred to lies between the international terminal and the cargo complex. We had asked the state government to carry out a survey so that we can find out whether the land can be used for aeronautical development like a parking bay. It was a basic feasibility survey which we wanted to carry out in order to find out whether the land can be acquired for the airport project.