NGT Upholds Environmental Clearance to Mopa Greenfield Airport Project, Farmers Continue Protests

Reported by

Nihar GokhaleLand Conflict Watch

Last updated on

November 11, 2020

Location of Conflict

Mopa

,

North Goa

Reason or Cause of Conflict

Airport

(

Eco-Sensitive Zone

)

People Affected by Conflict

7869

Land Area Affected (in Hectares)

919

ha

State

Goa

Sector

Infrastructure

Mopa Greenfield Airport is a proposed international airport in North Goa. It will be spread over 2,200 acres of land, making it the largest land acquisition in independent Goa. The land is situated on a laterite plateau, consisting of forests, grazing lands, orchards and farms under seasonal cultivation, falling under the territory of six villages situated on the slopes of the plateau. Farmers and traditional cattle grazers, known as dhangars, are among those affected. The process of land acquisition began in 2008, but the airport project caught public attention in 2009, when civil society organisations, citizens and even sections of the Roman Catholic church protested with banners stating "Goans for Dabolim Only" and "Maka Naka Mopa" (I Don't Want Mopa). The government claims that a new airport is necessary as the Dabolim airport, which is a defence airport, cannot be expanded. The affected farmers have alleged that the government has not outlined a rehabilitation plan for the oustees, offered poor compensation rates and forcibly acquired their land. In 2013, they decided to approach the Supreme Court to challenge the land acquisition by the government. The farmers, along with the non-profit Federation of Rainbow Warriors, challenged the environmental clearance granted to the airport before the Pune bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT). In November 2016, the NGT ordered a status quo on the relocation of the affected farmers until the case was decided upon. To appease the farmers, the state government increased their compensation. But the farmers refused, saying that they wanted to continue with their traditional occupation and not part with the land at all. According to a reply in Rajya Sabha in December 2016, only 618 farmers were paid compensation out of the 7,869 persons eligible. The others refused to accept it. Meanwhile, the Goa government awarded a 40-year construction and operations contract to the GMR Group for the project, which is estimated to cost around INR 3,000 crore. In 2017, as GMR commenced construction activities, people living in two neighbouring villages alleged that their homes were wrongly demolished. The residents claimed they had received no prior intimation or compensation for land acquisition and were given just two minutes to clear their belongings. In March 2018, the state government approved an additional compensation of three times the original rate to those displaced by the project. In August that year, the NGT upheld the environmental clearance granted to the project citing public interest but imposed additional environmental conditions. Environmental groups, however, continued to oppose the project. They pointed out that while the environmental clearance mentioned that the project site was barren, a government survey revealed that more than 55,000 trees at the site were going to be felled. An appeal against the tree-cutting was also filed at the NGT. Meanwhile, protests by farmers and state-based activists against the airport and the displacement of dhangars continued. After the NGT order, the people appealed the case before the Supreme Court. In March 2019, the SC struck down the NGT's order and suspended the EC. It ordered the government to re-assess the project. After the government completed the process, the apex court revived the EC in January 2020 and allowed the project to be completed. According to the government, the airport would be operational by 2022. After the SC's decision, there has been no further opposition to the project.

Region Classification

Rural

Type of Land

Both

Private and Common

Type of Common Land

Forest and Non-Forest

Total investment involved (in Crores):

3000

Type of investment:

Cost of Project

Land Area Affected
(in Hectares):

919

ha

Starting Year

2008

Government Bodies Involved in the Conflict:

Government of Goa, Ministry of Civil Aviation

Other Parties Involved in the Conflict:

Federation of Rainbow Warriors, an environmental activist group based in Margao

Corporate Parties Involved in the Conflict:

GMR Goa International Airport Limited

Has the Conflict Ended?

Yes

When did it end?

January 2020

Why did the conflict end?

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