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Mopa Back On Runway

Let govt and concessionaire leave no room for objections
On Thursday the Supreme Court lifted the suspension of environment clearance (EC) to the Mopa airport project and allowed resumption of its work. The concessionaire, GMR Goa International Airport Limited promised to the bench that in the event of the court sustaining the EC for the project it will stand committed to fulfill the objective of making the Mopa airport a zero carbon airport operation both in the construction and operational phases of the airport. The apex court accepted the GMR undertaking and allowed the work to resume on the Greenfield airport. The clearance has no doubt come with the condition that the additional conditions, which have been imposed by the Expert Appraisal Committee, together with the original conditions of the environment clearance issued on October 28, 2015 and the directions issued by the National Green Tribunal, should be cumulatively observed by GMR. The bunch of these directions takes care of various dimensions of the assessment of impact of the project, and hopefully the concessionaire complies with them both in letter and spirit, giving no room for any
more objections.
The apex court by an order issued on March 29, 2019 had suspended the EC and the project was in limbo for almost a year. The Thursday order has provided a big relief to the state and central authorities. The Mopa airport project is estimated to cost Rs 3,000 crore and is being built on build, operate and transfer (BOT) model. The project is to be completed in four phases. The first phase estimated to cost Rs 1,500 crore was envisaged to be completed during the financial year 2019-20 but following suspension of the EC by the apex court the project is likely to be delayed by at least a year. Now that EC suspension has been revoked the concessionaire should resume work at the earliest date. Accordingly the completion date would also have to be revised. On completion of the first phase the new airport is expected to handle 4.4 million passengers and by the end of completion of the fourth phase, the number is expected to go up to a million.
Ironically, for the state government the project delay came as a blessing in disguise. Had the project gone ahead as planned and been completed, people would have found it difficult to access it as the roads connecting the other parts of Goa to the Mopa airport have not been completed. Now that the work on the airport is schedule to resume, the state government must expedite the work on the road project to complete it before the operations start at the Mopa airport. It is intriguing to note that the work on widening of the North-South road has been lingering for close to a decade and there are no signs of it being completed any time soon. It is high time that authorities take up the challenge of ensuring smooth connectivity between North Goa and South Goa by getting the ongoing works on road widening project completed at the earliest, so people do not face problems travelling distances.
Opposition to any developmental project has been a familiar scene in the state and so opposition to the Mopa project was nothing unexpected. However, some of the issues could have been undertaken and resolved by the state government in order to reduce the bottlenecks to the progress of the Mopa airport project. The government has signed a contract with the concessionaire according to which they could be asked to compensate the company for the escalation in costs owing to delay. We do not know yet how things will move on this aspect. Leaving that aside, however, the state government needs to work at various levels to clear the apprehensions expressed by certain sections about the closure of the Dabolim airport when the Mopa airport becomes operational. The state government and the central government must maintain a balanced flow of traffic between the two airports of the state, which will help maintain equitable business to those engaged in hospitality and transport businesses. As Mopa is going to grow without the constraints of control of Indian Navy, the airport is certainly going to be bigger and bigger than Dabolim. Yet within constraints Dabolim must be helped to grow too.

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