The approval of the Master Plan by the steering committee on the proposed International Airport at Mopa defies sanity. The action of the Government actually bulldozes the sentiments of the locals of the area, who have been displaying their opposition to the project. Whatever big talk the Government may give of having a state-of-art airport, the prime question remains that the plan is unwelcomed by the locals of the region. This is the basic premise by which the project fails the test of a vibrant democracy. We only hope that the proposed site does not turn out into another Kudankulam power project, which was opposed by the locals over a decade ago, was ignored, and now is being projected as some new development. It is well over six years that opposition to the Mopa project is underway!
What causes more concern is that there is no word as to whether Environmental Impact Assessment, involving the Local Community has been attempted at all. Moreover, Mopa is unlikely to get the required forest clearance because large aircrafts taking off and landing at all odd hours would frighten away wild life and disturb forest sanctuaries -- an epicenter of biodiversity in the Western Ghats. It is not clear whether the Dabolim Airport would be termed a Domestic Airport, once the Mopa Airport comes up. Otherwise, the construction of the Mopa Airport will be in violation of the guidelines for international airports which suggest that distance between two major airports should not be less than 150 km. Dabolim is less than 80 km away from Mopa and the new airport at Chipi in Sindhudurg, is even less. This aspect will also need to be looked into.
There’s more than what meets the eye. There appears to be an orchestrated hype created in favour of the airport, with vested interests like builders seeking to rake in profits by cornering prime plots. Reportedly, over 250 sale deeds have been executed pertaining to land valued at over Rs 1500 crore. Politicians who were once opposing the airport appear to have realized the great potential for raking in quick cash and have fallen in line!
There seems to be an unwritten accord that the airport at Mopa is a must. Even though the Navy has already sounded its intentions of setting up a naval enclave at Mopa, the tourism industry seems to have preferred to ignore the announcement because apparently they do not see it as a threat to the chartered flights which cart in hundreds of passengers at unearthly hours. Today, the civil aviation follows the dictum of the Navy and this will predictably continue at Mopa. The arguments of more tourists arriving because of Mopa are therefore open to question. If the airport indeed becomes a reality, it will be akin to Dabolim with Defence “interference”.
In the backdrop of this maze of doubts and inconsistencies,and the Government’s obsession with Mopa, it is rather strange that the Government which professed to stand by late Matanhy’s legacy is going ahead with the project. Matanhy was known to have been opposed to the project, and was vocal on this count, even terming it as a “land mafia at work”. It is a shame that the Government which just over a month ago promised to carry on Matanhy’s legacy “as far as possible” is now kow-towing to the whims of the builders’ lobby. Was this the promised legacy?