As the proposed Navi Mumbai airport still remains on paper even after 15 years due to land acquisition issues, engineering services major Netherlands Airport Consultants has suggested creating an island near JNPT to tide over the deadlock.
"The Navi Mumbai airport project is embroiled in controversies regarding compensation to the projected affected parties and also green clearances, leading to a massive cost escalation.
"We have therefore proposed to Maharashtra to consider an alternative location by creating an island in the bay area near the JNPT," Netherlands Airport Consultants regional manager Joeri Aulman told PTI.
Land-starved cities like Hong Kong and Singapore have their world class airports built on sea. Mumbai is also not alien to the concept as a good portion of the city is on reclaimed land.
The Dutch company is a global provider of planning, design and engineering services to airports.
Aulman, who was in town to address a Dutch-organised urban seminar here over the weekend, said they have made a presentation to the state in this regard.
"We have proposed to create an island by reclamation of the bay area to the north of JNPT. We will need to create nearly 2,500 hectares to develop the project. It will make available more land without affecting the nature," he said.
When asked about the response from the state, he said: "We got a positive response from the state government which said it will take up the proposal with the Union environment and forest ministry."
According to Cidco, which is the project executioner, the project cost, which was pegged at Rs 4,766 crore way back in 1998 when the airport was proposed, has risen more than threefold to around Rs 14,573 crore now.
The over 305% cost escalation has also partly to do with capacity increase to 60 million passengers annually from the originally planned 40 million.
The state has to acquire 1,800 hectares for the project, which would involve merciless chopping down of the mangroves and reclaiming marshy plots, apart from levelling farm land.
Most of the land has already been acquired though. Explaining the benefits of reclamation, Aulman said through integral infrastructure and planned reclamation, including nature reserve areas and careful zoning, we can achieve a net gain in natural habitation and coastal ecosystems.
"We estimate the cost for creating this project would be around R15,000 crore (is slightly more than the current estimate). Later, we can also expand the capacity as per the original plan of the government," he added. Aulman further said the land under the original plan could be used for developing real estate infrastructure.