In a setback to the GMR group, the Supreme Court on Friday refused to allow the construction of Goa’s new greenfield international airport and asked an expert committee to review the environment clearance for the Mopa airport which was scheduled to become operational by 2020.
Directing the Environment Assessment Committee (EAC) to conduct a fresh evaluation of the project for the grant of an environment clearance in a month’s time and submit its report to it expeditiously, a bench, led of Justice D Y Chandrachud kept in suspension the environment clearance given to the project by the ministry of environment and forests in October 28, 2015 until a fresh review is carried out.
“While doing so, it would be open to the EAC to have due regard to the conditions which were incorporated in the order of the NGT and to suitably modulate those conditions… … The EAC would be at liberty to lay down appropriate conditions concerning air, water, noise, land, biological and socio-economic environment,” it said.
A final call on clearance for the project will be taken after the report is reviewed, the apex court said, while emphasising on the necessity to maintain a balance between the need for an airport and environmental concerns.
It further said that the expert panel should give due regard to the assurance given by the concessionaire that it was ‘willing to adopt and implement necessary safeguards bearing in mind international best practices governing greenfield airports’. The top court also barred other courts in the country from entertaining any plea related to the issue.
On January 18, the apex court had asked the Goa government and concessionaire GMR Goa International Airport to maintain status quo on the construction of the Mopa airport being built in Pernem taluka in a total area of around 2,200 acre.
The order came on two appeals filed by activist Hanumant Aroskar and Federation of Rainbow Warriors challenging the August 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.
GMR had stated that saying 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.