Saturday, August 28, 2010

Appeal to reconsider Mopa Airport




Date: 26th July 2010


Shri. Jairam Ramesh

Hon’ble Minister for Environment & Forests

C-1/9, Lodhi Gardens, Rajesh Pilot Marg,

New Delhi- 110 003.



Dear Sir,

We are shocked to know that the Central Government has given the nod for a greenfield International Airport at Mopa, Goa on 10th June 2010, without carrying out essential studies regarding the necessity and the feasibility of the project and, equally importantly, without considering the environmental and socio-economic impacts of the proposed project.

The proposed Mopa International Airport initially requires an investment of at least Rs 4000 crores, and shall cause the loss of more than 100 lakhs sq meters of fertile lands belonging to 15,000 farmers, who shall not only lose their lands, but also their livelihoods. In the view of the huge costs, a detailed techno-commercial feasibility report should have been prepared by experts before commencing acquisition proceedings. Similarly, an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) would seem mandatory before locating the Airport on Mopa plateau, considering the fact that the plateaus and upper slopes in the plateau region of Goa are highly eco-sensitive zones. The environmental and socio-economic studies assume even greater importance in the light of the emerging consensus that Goa is already suffering from over-exploitation of resources.

The traditional ecological communities belonging to Mopa and its neighboring villages are facing a grave threat today due to the proposal for construction of an International Airport on our lands. Unless there is an immediate intervention from your good self, thousands of farming families will be displaced by the ongoing acquisitions of prime agricultural lands for this thoughtless proposal.

The fact is that this grandiose project is absolutely unnecessary and threatens to reverse the socio-economic development that our State has witnessed over the past few decades. The arbitrary decision to construct a second International Airport in tiny Goa is a huge blunder. In these circumstances, the ongoing Land Acquisition is absolutely insensitive to the lives of thousands of farming families, who are being arbitrarily displaced and dispossessed for a project that will never see the light of dawn.

We wish to bring to your immediate notice the following facts which clearly show that the arbitrary decision of the State Government of Goa needs to be scrapped without delay in order to save precious money and time, and to save Goa in general, and the Taluka of Pernem in particular, from certain and irreversible destruction:


1. It is the Union Government’s responsibility to ensure that Greenfield International Airports are not constructed at the wrong places. However, the approval of a second International Airport in Goa seems to have been given without a proper review of the necessity, or feasibility, of two International Airports in Goa.

2. Airports are crucial centers of development of the Nation. While well chosen sites for Greenfield Airports have the potential to catalyze economic growth, poor or misconceived site selection is sure to wreak havoc on the existing economy. It is therefore absolutely critical that a Nation must not make any error in the selection of sites for new Airports and that such decisions follow detailed and thorough study of all possibilities and options available. In the case of the proposal for Mopa International Airport, the Indian Government has allowed a thoughtless ‘wish’ of the Goa Government to override all National considerations and norms of planning.

3. Airports require huge investments from the State, and can make or break the economy of a region depending on whether they are successful or not. Such large investment of the Public Funds must surely not go waste, since a failed project of this magnitude would seriously damage India’s chances to achieve necessary and desired growth. The Union Government must seriously consider the viability of the Mopa International Airport, before it is too late.

4. Goa ranks a lowly 9th by volume as per the air traffic report of 2009 among all the Airports in the country. Cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore and Hyderabad not only have higher volumes of traffic, but are also having better growth potential than Goa. In fact, there are signs that Goa is suffering as a destination due to over-development and may be fast losing her charm, which could translate into negative growth in the air traffic volume. On the other hand other there are several Indian States that need development catalysts, and growing cities that have genuine traffic congestion issues, where greenfield Airports are necessary solutions. It is therefore extremely surprising that two International Airports are approved for Goa, including a greenfield International Airport at Mopa, before considering the needs of the larger and fast growing cities, or the underdeveloped parts of the country.

5. While planning new Airports, it is important to first ensure that the site selection is not influenced by vested interests. In particular, speculation in land is recognized as the most serious threat to proper site selection. In the case of Mopa Airport, the site selected lies in the middle of a completely agricultural region, supporting a largely agrarian population, which continues to be deprived due to non-implementation of various constitutional and legal provisions for decades. Most of the lands in Pernem taluka are tenanted lands, but the ownership continues to vest in the names of the landlords of yesteryears, who are politicians or influential businessmen today. The tenants remain without titles to the lands they have cultivated and possessed for centuries and are also without any education or vocational training, except in agriculture. A study conducted by us shows that in the past 10 years huge chunks of agricultural lands, many of which are tenanted, have been purchased by politicians and other rich persons. These local politicians and other influential persons are pushing the demand for the second Airport in order to make large profits by selling the agricultural lands which they have purchased for a pittance. In their blind greed, the local politicians are manipulating the Union Government into taking this completely wrong decision, which shall destroy the environment, society and economy of Goa, unless the Union Government exercises its powers and stops this project.

6. The local politicians have falsely portrayed the need for a second International Airport within the State of Goa. The proposal for the second Airport has been made possible only by avoiding all basic planning norms, procedures and checks and balances and by giving false information. The State Government has ignored all National and local interests while pushing their proposal for the Mopa Airport. It is therefore clear that if the Union Government wishes to ensure that the development of Airports in the country does not falter, it must insist on detailed studies of the necessity and feasibility of the two International Airports in Goa, and the environmental and socio-economic impact of the second Airport on the region around the site selected. Till such time that the Union Government is not satisfied with the necessity and feasibility of two Airports in Goa, the State Government should be asked to stay the ongoing land acquisition proceedings.

7. The Policy of Airport Infrastructure (source: Ministry of Civil Aviation, December 1997) states that no Greenfield airports will normally be allowed within an aerial distance of 150 kms of an existing airport (paragraph 3. of the section entitled 'Greenfield Airports'). It goes on to state that where a Greenfield airport is allowed as a second airport in the same city or close vicinity, the parameters for distribution of traffic between the two airports will be clearly spelt out. We state that that the approval of the Mopa Airport does not conform to the Policy of Airport Infrastructure, since the restriction on Greenfield Airports in the vicinity of existing airports has been arbitrarily ignored. Mopa has two existing airports in its vicinity (Dabolim, Goa and Sindhudurg Airport, Maharashtra) and therefore the restrictions should not have been violated. Further, no clear parameters for distribution of traffic between the three airports have been spelt out, which should have been done before the approval was granted. It is stated that if a studied attempt was made to distribute the present and future traffic between the three airports, Mopa Airport would have never been approved.


The Goa Government has arbitrarily decided that it needs a second Airport, without carrying out any studies regarding the feasibility of two International Airports within the tiny State. This arbitrary decision is bad due to blatant failure of the State Authorities to apply their mind, to carry out planning, and to follow essential procedures.

If proper norms and procedures had been followed, the following considerations would have required the planners and decision-makers not to plan for a second Airport in Goa :

1. The existing International Airport at Dabolim, Goa has sufficient capacity to cater to all the passenger and cargo traffic for Goa. In spite of the operational restrictions imposed by the Indian Navy at present (some of which are arbitrary and unnecessary), and the scope for improvement in operational procedures being followed, Dabolim Airport comfortably handles peak traffics during the tourism season. The Dabolim Airport is currently being upgraded under a Rs 500 Crore project. After completion of ongoing works and with further improvements in the Airport Operations and infrastructure, the Dabolim Airport can comfortably handle traffic for the State of Goa in the coming decades. There is therefore no need for a second International Airport to be constructed in Goa. In order to justify its ‘wish’ for a second International Airport at Goa, the State Government has attempted to conceal the fact that the existing Dabolim Airport has sufficient capacity to handle the future air traffic for many years to come.

2. Dabolim International Airport is located at the center of Goa, while Mopa is located at the Northern end of the State. A large majority of the local population, as well as most of the tourists heading for the popular beaches and Hotels in South and Central Goa, will continue using Dabolim Airport in the future even if Mopa Airport is constructed. The Government has given a commitment to the Goan population that the use of Dabolim Airport for domestic and International flights shall continue even if Mopa International Airport is built and put to use. As the Dabolim Airport will continue to remain operational, the Mopa International Airport is not feasible.

3. The Mopa plateau lies about 20 nautical miles north of the Dabolim International Airport, and about 23 nautical miles south of the Chipi Airport being constructed in Maharashtra. While the present National Policy requires any greenfield Airport to be outside a 150 kms radius from any existing Airport, in this case two greenfield Airports have been granted approval within 150 kms from the existing Dabolim International Airport. In fact, the construction of the greenfield Mopa International Airport shall create three operational Civilian Airports within a radius of 20-25 Nautical miles. This extraordinary situation is not considered in any of the reports or other documents obtained under the RTI Act.

4. The Dabolim Airport has always been an International Civilian Airport, even before the liberation of Goa from colonial rule. However, since the liberation of Goa, the Indian Navy has sometimes created unnecessary hurdles for the civilian operations at the Airport. This issue can easily be solved with proper co-ordination between the Indian Navy, Airport Authority of India and the Ministries concerned.

5. The existing Dabolim Airport site is superior to the proposed site at Mopa in terms of geographical characteristics. The plateau at Mopa has disadvantages on account of its limited size and the steep slopes which surround it on all sides. The Mopa plateau is located very close to the towering Western Ghats and is surrounded by prime agricultural lands and rural settlements, while the Dabolim Airport is located much closer to the coast and to the urban centers and tourism zones.

6. In addition to the issues raised in paragraph 2 above, the feasibility of a second Airport in Goa is seriously in doubt on various grounds. Firstly, unless at least one Airline is committed to locating its ‘hub’ (parking its fleet on the tarmac) at a new greenfield Airport, such a project should not be considered. Since all existing domestic and International Airlines operating in this region already have hubs at Mumbai, Bangalore, or Hyderabad, Mopa Airport has a distinct disadvantage to start with. Secondly, the present Goa bound air traffic largely consists of charter flights for tourism and other tourists. There are several indications today that Goa has already crossed its capacity for sustainable tourism. In fact, the ongoing environmental and socio-economic degradation, combined with rising crime, drugs and other scandals, have already started driving away the better tourists from this rapidly deteriorating destination. At the same time, as stated by the Government and its agencies, this new Airport cannot be feasible unless large numbers of tourists are attracted by constructing various new projects, such as 'ice city', 'sports city', I.T. park, shopping malls, etc. While such a strategy may catalyze economic growth in under developed places, Goa is already over-developed, and therefore the wrong place for another International Airport, which shall only degrade the place further and cause a complete collapse of tourism in Goa.


The State Government has attempted to justify its demand for a second International Airport by employing a company called M/s. Bhagat Infrastructures to study the second Airport proposal. Subsequently, the Government appointed M/s. ADPi to carry out a study on the Mopa site. From the documents received under the RTI Act from the Authorities, it is clear that these reports are only eyewash, and cannot form the basis of the approval of a second International Airport in Goa. Some basic flaws in these studies and reports are:

1. The appointment of M/s Bhagat Infrastructures to prepare the preliminary feasibility report can be termed a farce, based on the prima facie evidence collected under the RTI Act. Firstly, the company seems to be the front office for a Spanish company eager to bag Airport construction projects, especially the Mopa International Airport construction project, thereby disqualifying it from taking on the role of a Consultant. Secondly, the single page letter from the said company regarding their conclusions is completely unacceptable. The said company was led on by the State Government to believe that it was going to get the Contract to build the new International Airport, which explains the hasty report given in favor of the second Airport. Thirdly, it is obvious that the capabilities of the said company were woefully inadequate from the start of the challenging consultancy assignment. The State Government has therefore completely failed to apply its mind to the issue regarding a second Airport in Goa and is guilty of gross negligence in taking this rash decision.

2. Critique of ADPi preliminary feasibility report.

a. This report does not touch the issues of the necessity and feasibility of a second Airport. The consultant does not have any mandate to study the feasibility of a second Airport in Goa. In the absence of this basic study, the feasibility report has very limited relevance to the decision whether or not to build a second Airport in Goa.

b. There are no environmental or socio-economic studies carried out by the consultant. This can easily be verified by comparing the statements made in the report with the ground reality.

c. The report includes some gravely erroneous statements and excludes many significant facts regarding the Mopa plateau. It mentions that there are no permanent structures within the Airport site. It goes on to say that some nomads build a few temporary kutcha huts when they bring their cattle to graze on the plateau. It then concludes that there are no rehabilitation issues related to the use of this land to build an Airport. But in reality, the environmental and socio-economic impact of the proposed airport is massive. There are about 150 permanent houses, some of them around 200 years old, inside the land to be acquired. The extensive agricultural activities on the plateau and its sides are not mentioned in the report at all. There is also no reference to unique Dhangar settlement on the plateau, or to the ancient religious significance of the plateau to the villagers from the surrounding villages.

d. The report mentions that the lower plain ground can be used for commercial activities, housing complexes and other infrastructure for the Mopa Airport. In reality, the upper slopes around the plateaus are either thickly forested or used for farming. The lower slopes and plains are thickly populated and house most of the farmers and other locals, who are mostly dependent on their agricultural lands, both in the plains and on the plateau above. If the lower plains and slopes are also acquired from the locals, it will translate into complete displacement of all the local communities.

e. The lands to be acquired for the Airport include, or are adjoining, vast stretches of cashew plantations, which constitute the major commercial crop for the farmers. It is roughly estimated that the agricultural produce from the plateau and the slopes around it is valued at more than 50 crores of rupees every year, which equates to the subsistence of more than 15,000 families.

f. Existence of substantial infrastructure for the residents in the form of school, electricity installations, roads and irrigation canals etc have not been considered in the report.

g. The State Governments of Goa and Maharashtra have jointly spent Rs. 1612.15 crores on the Tillari irrigation project and another Rs. 524.54 crores on canals network running around the Mopa plateau. If the Airport is constructed at Mopa, this huge investment shall also go waste.


The Mopa Airport site lies on a plateau next to the Western Ghats. The area around the plateau is mostly agricultural, but also includes thickly forested upper slopes. The plateau itself has a highly sensitive ecology. There is presence of a wide variety of flora and fauna in the area. The forests around the Mopa plateau are contiguous with neighboring parts of the Western Ghats and form a part of the habitat and range necessary for the survival of many species. A few months back there was a tiger killing registered in the forests at Keri in Sattari taluka, which are located only kms away from the proposed Airport site. The presence of tigers in various places within Goa was also confirmed during the recent survey conducted by the forest department , including at , only kms from the proposed airport site.

The Mopa Plateau is also extremely important as the major aquifer in the region, feeding tens of thousands of families with water for their daily needs and for irrigation. The numerous springs and wells in the region are recharged and fed by the aquifer lying under the plateau. The construction of the airport shall surely affect this aquifer, and the persons, economies and environment dependent on it, adversely.

It is seen that the environmental impact of the proposed airport is going to be significant to say the least. However, no studies have been conducted on the environmental impact, while the acquisition proceedings have been started. This is an incorrect procedure, especially for such a large project located in a ecologically sensitive area.


The proposed airport is threatening about 15,000 persons with direct displacement and many more indirectly. There is no study done about the impact of the new airport on various sectors of the existing economy of the region, or on the fragile fabric of this agrarian society. The Government reports are completely oblivious to the massive socio-economic displacement this airport shall cause and attempts to hide the facts by saying that there shall be no socio-economic impact at all. This is obviously a misrepresentation.

The decision taken to build a second Airport can only be justified on the basis of rapid growth in tourism in the state of Goa, but bad policies allowing mining to destroy the forests and water resources, uncontrollable garbage and sewage that have polluted places of tourist interests, and scandals of sex, drugs and violence have badly affected tourism in the state. It is clear today that the assumption that tourism in Goa shall keep on growing is wrong and that the challenge facing tourism in Goa is not growth but sustainability.

It is seen that absolutely no socio-economic impact studies have been carried out for this massive development project. The Government is blindly pursuing a decision that is marred with complete lack of application of mind and failure to recognize the need of the hour. Without carrying out the requisite studies, embarking on such a large project in this densely populated agricultural region is certain to cause tremendous socio-economic upheaval and displacement.


This is a desperate appeal from all the citizens of Goa asking for your speedy intervention to save this paradise on earth from irreversible destruction.

We humbly request you:

· To direct the State Government to cancel the acquisition proceedings for Mopa Airport and to reconsider the proposal for a second Airport in Goa; Or,

· To direct the State Government to stay the acquisition proceedings for Mopa International Airport, while the Central Government studies the necessity and feasibility of a second International Airport in Goa, and the environmental and socio-economic impact of the proposed Airport on the site selected and the rest of the State.

Having placed our confidence in your foresight and wisdom, we await your urgent response to this desperate and final plea to save our lands and the lives of the future generations.

Thanking You,

Yours sincerely,

For Mopa Vimantall Piditt Xetkari Samiti


Sandip Kambli ( Secretary)

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