GMR had stated that it is a national project and that work is underway at a fast pace.
In a major relief to GMR Goa International Airport, the Supreme Court on Thursday paved way for construction of a new greenfield international airport at Mopa in Goa, as it lifted the suspension of environmental clearance (EC) on its construction.
While lifting suspension on the EC, a bench led by Justice DY Chandrachud took note of the assurance given by concessionaire GMR Goa International Airport, a subsidiary of GMR Infrastructure, that it will adopt a Zero Carbon Programme both in the construction and operational phases of the airport. “We accept the undertaking of the concessionaire and issue a direction for compliance.”
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To ensure compliance with its directions, the judges directed that the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute to be appointed and GMR “shall bear the costs, expenses and fees of NEERI.”
The apex court had last year in January refused to allow the construction of the airport and had asked an expert committee — Environment Assessment Committee (EAC) — to review the environment clearance for the Mopa airport, which was scheduled to become operational by 2020. The bench had kept in suspension the EC given to the project, which is being built in Pernem taluka in a total area of 2,131 acre, by the environment ministry in October 28, 2015 until a fresh review is carried out.
The apex court on Thursday said that its earlier judgment highlighted numerous deficiencies by the project proponent leading to the grant of the EC. “This court highlighted numerous concerns including the preservation of forests, the existence of ESAs with their attendant features and the impact of the proposed project on natural water channels. The court also noted the abject failure of the project proponent to provide complete information on the existence of reserved forests. In the proceedings that followed the judgment…, the project proponent sought to remedy its failure by taking into account additional information on significant aspects of the environment. In the process leading to the grant of the EC as well as the lifting of its suspension by this court, numerous mitigatory conditions have been imposed on the project proponent.”
GMR had stated that it is a national project and that work is underway at a fast pace. As per the concession agreement, the airport was to be constructed in four phases and had an ultimate potential of over 30 million passengers per annum.
The company further said that as on January 18, 2019, approximately 14.06% of the project work had been completed. Pursuant to the orders for the removal of trees, 54,176 trees were felled and 500 trees were earmarked for transplantation. Ten trees of local species are to be replanted for every tree which has been felled. 20,000 saplings have been re-planted.
The order came on an appeal filed by activist Hanumant Aroskar challenging the August 2018 order of the National Green Tribunal that refused to stay the construction of the greenfield airport project. The petitioners had sought for a stay over the felling of 55,000 trees at Mopa, arguing that the environment impact assessment (EIA) report had only mentioned about the bushes on the airport site.