Skip to main content

Water aerodrome projects: A Govt of India 'priority' for Gujarat amidst Covid crisis

Proposed aerodrome site near Statue of Unity
By Rohit Prajapati, Krishnakant*
In the current scenario of Covid-19, where the entire country is struggling for survival, safety, and security, the government of the day is working suo moto (on their own) very proactively, 24×7, to “help” the industries and other mega projects.
An eye-opening example is the recent Draft Notification Environmental Impact Assessment 2020 by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC). Even industries would not have been able to devise such a Draft. Obtaining the Terms of Reference (ToR) for EIA from MoEF&CC is analogous to booking a vehicle and getting a RTO Receipt.
Almost all of us must have experienced how easy it is to apply and get a 'Vehicle Registration Number' at the RTOs all over India: Hire an Agent (Consultant), apply, submit documents, pay the stipulated fee and get the permit! Believe it or not, obtaining an "Environment Clearance" (EC) for any big "Development" project, according to the Government of the Day, is just like and as easy as applying for and getting a 'Vehicle Registration Number" (EC).
It is apparent that the MoEF&CC is practically playing the role of the Ministry of Commerce and Industries, trading the environment and the resources for short-term monetary gain. Both the Ministries can undergo a merger process, like many corporates, and be renamed as ‘The Ministry of Environment for Commerce and Industries’. They can then chart out newer strategies to obliterate our undervalued resources and then also apply for international loans for the same.

Water Aerodromes

The government of the day, amidst the increasing Covid-19 chaos in the month of April and May 2020, considers planning for tourism as an important need and a priority. The Government has promptly planned for Water Aerodrome Projects near Statue of Unity Project Panchmukhi Lake (Lake 3) of Sardar Sarovar Dam at Limdi Village, Narmada District, Gujarat, and at Shatrunjay Dam, village Vadal Village, Bhavnagar District, Gujarat both by M/s Civil Aviation Department, Government of Gujarat.
Once planned and approved during the lockdown period, these projects will be ready for implementation, when things return to the new normalcy and by the time people realise the potential impacts, they would already be built.
The minutes of the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of MoEF&CC dated April 22-24, 2020, at Page No 8 mention:
“The project proponent informed the EAC that Water Aerodrome is primarily on water, intended to be used either wholly or in part for the arrival, departure and movement of seaplanes, and any building and equipment on ground or water. Sea plane operation from coastal/ river/ canal as well as terrestrial water bodies will extend the connectivity to those areas where there is no land-based airport.
“The high capital investment for airside infrastructure development required in land-based airport can be avoided. Thus, there is a necessity to establish water aerodromes for seaplane operations. It was also confirmed by the project proponent that M/s Civil Aviation Department, Government of Gujarat shall follow safety regulations, maintain good housekeeping and judiciously operate pollution control facilities to meet the prescribed norms and shall promote environment friendliness. This project can be set-up with minimal or negligible adverse environmental impact.”

Once planned and approved during lockdown, these projects will be ready for implementation when things return to normalcy
One of the Terms of References, we feel necessary to reiterate, is that:
“…Public hearing is to be conducted. Issues raised during public hearing and commitments made by the project proponent on such issues should be included in final EIA/EMP Report in the form of tabular chart with financial budget for complying with such commitments.”
If we read in between the lines of this ToR, it clearly indicates that the EAC of MoEF&CC expect that affected and concern people should not say ‘No” to ‘The Project’ and only have to think about the demands to allow this project to happen. The EAC has made it clear that they are not going to consider if affected and concern people say ‘No’ to The Project.
Proposed aerodrome site near Palitana, Saurashtra
The ‘Water Aerodrome Project’ proposal near the Statue of Unity (SoU) Project is completely silent about the fact that it is surrounded by the serene environment with Vindhyachal and Satpuda mountain ranges on either side, there are projects like: 
  • Sardar Sarovar Dam, 
  • Garudeshwar Weir, 
  • Statue of Unity Project, 
  • Shrestha Bharat Bhavan (Hotel), 
  • Valley of Flowers, 
  • Vishwa Van, 
  • Jungle Safari, 
  • Cactus Garden, 
  • Butterfly Garden, 
  • Ekta Nursery, 
  • Arogya Van, 
  • Zarvani Eco-tourism & Adventure Sports, 
  • Khalwani Eco-Tourism Site, 
  • Ekta Mall, 
  • Ekta Auditorium, 
  • Children Nutrition Park, 
  • Mirror Maze, 
  • Ekta Food Court and 
  • Various Accommodation Facilities. 
These projects completely lack any holistic planning and their shoddy implementation will most likely cause throwing good (public) money after bad (public) money that are already wasted in these projects.
Looking at the government’s on-going activities, one might conclude that the SoU Area is ‘Special Government Zone’ (SGZ), and, therefore, the following laws do not apply to this area: 
  1. The Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972; 
  2. The Environmental Impact Assessment Notification 2006; 
  3. The Environment (Protection) Act 1986; 
  4. The Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules 2010; 
  5. The Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016; 
  6. The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974; 
  7. The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, and 
  8. The Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014.
In such a scenario, the environmental impacts due to the Aerodrome project would be compounded and exemplified, to which the MoEF&CC seems to be in convenient denial. And, it is assumed that tourism activities do not have adverse and grave environmental impacts.
The MoEF&CC is a mute spectator of such a manipulative approach of the Government of Gujarat to ignore the real irreversible damage to the ecosystem and their functions in the area by looking at them in isolation.
Until now, the Narmada waters were expected to fulfilling the basic as well as extravagant requirements of Gujarat; be it provision of drinking and waters for agricultural activities for the Kutch and Saurashtra region or quenching the thirst of the Sabarmati Riverfront.   
Rohit Prajapati at Statue of Unity
The overarching question is that where will the water come to fulfill the needs of the pompous projects near SoU on River Narmada? The EAC has ignored the constitutional provisions of Schedule V for forested areas inhabited by indigenous tribals and the Panchayats Extension to Scheduled Area Act, 1996 (PESA) – both of which apply to this area.
It is shocking and surprising that the EAC of MoEF&CC is able to digest the line “This project can be set-up with minimal or negligible adverse environmental impact.” It is important to note the Government of Gujarat is so “sensitive” to “Protect and Help” people of Gujarat from Covid 19, is also able to plan for the Tourism Projects as an immediate need for the people of India.
In summation, the Central Vista Project is the priority of the Government of India and Water Aerodrome Projects are the priorities of the Government of Gujarat. Moreover, shockingly MoEF&CC is proactively ready to help fulfil these priorities so that Doing Business as Usual can continue at an exponential rate, no matter what.
---
*Rohit Prajapati is environment activist, researcher and writer; Krishnakant is environment activist

Comments

TRENDING

'Halt Covid-19 vaccination drive': Indian doctors join campaign across 36 nations

By Rosamma Thomas*  A group of Spanish doctors first got together to call for a halt to the Covid-19 vaccinations, and doctors from other countries too later joined them – there are now over 12,000 doctors from India, Portugal, Canada, Hungary, South Africa, Israel and a host of other nations who have issued a call to halt vaccinations. On September 10, a group of Indian doctors came together to address the press over a webinar to explain why they thought the vaccination drive should end forthwith. Dr Amitav Banerjee, who after a career as an epidemiologist in the Indian Army now teaches at a private medical college in Pune, said there was no longer a medical emergency. Children are at low risk of infection, and there is good reason to halt vaccination and conduct proper research, given the high number of adverse events. There is a sudden and poorly explained spike in the number of young and healthy people dying. While it may be impossible to attribute deaths entirely to the vaccinatio

Did Mother Teresa trivialise poverty? 'You are suffering, that means Jesus is kissing you'

By Harsh Thakor*  The world commemorated the 25th death anniversary of Mother Teresa on September 5. Whatever her flaws, she rendered service to humanity in regions almost untranscended, resembling the relentless spirit of the waves of an ocean. Irrespective of community or religion, she offered her service. Even those not drawn by sainthood revere the role of Mother Teresa. For 68 years, she had worked selflessly and tirelessly in India and elsewhere in the world, taught the destitute, healed the sick, fed and clothed the poor, cared for abandoned children, housed lepers and those afflicted with HIV/AIDS and offered dignity in death to desolate persons abandoned by family and society. Mother Teresa was born in Skopje in 1910 to an Albanian family as AnjezĂ« Gonxhe Bojaxhiu. She became wedded to religious vows at an early age and moved to India to join the missionary work of the Catholic Church. Heartshaken by the misery faced by the Indian masses, in 1950 she set up her own

Tracing roots of Hindutva Zionism: cannon fodder for 'warped' nationalist pretensions

By Shamsul Islam*  Those who believe in a world free of hegemonic ethno-nationalism, racism, religious bigotry and hatred have rightly taken note of Zionism and its ally Christian Zionism, major perpetrators of ethnic cleansing of ‘Others’. However, the civilized world with its core belief in multi-culturalism and peaceful co-existence is oblivious to a no less dangerous threat to the present human civilization: the Hindutva Zionism. As the term reads it is part of the Hindutva world-view which stands for an exclusive Hindu India minus Muslims and Christians. The other religions like Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism will have no independent status but treated as part of Hinduism. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS; National Volunteer Organization) is the most prominent flag-bearer of the Hindutva politics whose cadres presently rule India, the largest democracy in the world. RSS was founded by Keshav Baliram Hedgewar (1889-1940) in 1925 who was disillusioned with the Indian freedom st

Regional parties, anti-Congress progressives, civil society groups 'joining' Bharat Jodo

By Harshavardhan Purandare, Sandeep Pandey*  The Congress party declared Bharat Chhodo (Quit India) movement against the British regime in 1942. The Congress party has now launched a movement Bharat Jodo (Connecting and Uniting India) against the Modi regime in 2022. Indian people have had a journey of 80 years since Mahatma Gandhi gave that Quit India call to the British and we have to agree that we stand most divided in our modern history when Rahul Gandhi is giving this Bharat Jodo call to the nation. And back then, Congress was a thriving idealistic political movement against the British rulers and now it is an ever weakening political organization electorally defeated several times. However, it is India at stake, not just the Congress party. That is why so many regional political parties, civil society organizations, traditional anti-Congress progressive forces like socialists and communists, intellectuals and civil servants have declared their support and are proactively partici

Shocking? No Covid vaccine trials conducted on pregnant, lactating women: RTI reply

By Rosamma Thomas*  A Right to Information applicant who sought details of safety trials conducted in India on pregnant and lactating women for three Covid vaccines in use in India – Covishield, Covaxin and ZyCov-D -- was shocked to learn from the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) that Serum Institute, manufacturer of Covishield, and Cadila Healthcare, manufacturer of the ZyCov-D vaccine, had not sought permission for such trials.  Bharat Biotech, manufacturer of Covaxin, had sought permission for trial on pregnant women and later withdrawn its application. This response , provided after the applicant was initially unsatisfied with the response and went in appeal, is from the joint drugs controller, CDSCO. It was dated September 13, 2022. One researcher closely following the vaccine rollout, however, is of the opinion that the lack of a trial on pregnant and lactating women is a blessing; potential trial participants and their unborn babies thus escaped harm. Aruna Ro

Grave error? Scholar blames ex-Gujarat babu for anti-Christian riots 'citing fake report'

By Rajiv Shah  A few days back, I received a message from one of the finest former Gujarat government bureaucrats, PG Ramrakhiani, a 1964 batch IAS official, who retired in November 2000. I would often interact with him in 1997-99, even later, after I was sent to Gandhinagar as a Times of India man to cover Sachivalaya. Those were turbulent times. Shankarsinh Vaghela was the Gujarat chief minister, under attack from two sides – from the BJP, which he had left to form a separate breakaway party, Rashtriya Janata Party (RJP), one one hand, and the Congress, which was supporting him from outside, on the other. Ramrakhiani, in his message, referred to the book authored by Ghanshyam Shah and Jan Breman, both top-notch scholars who have known Gujarat in and out. Called “Gujarat, Cradle and Harbinger of Identity Politics: India’s Injurious Frame of Communalism”, I reviewed the book in January 2022.  It claims that Muslims in Gujarat have been turned into “new untouchables”, thanks to the Hin

Excess to cheetah in Kuno to increase 'woes' of local people, 'disturb' wildlife balance

Bharat Dogra*  The release of eight cheetahs into the Kuno National Park ( Madhya Pradesh) by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 17, although accompanied by a media blitz, has raised several questions. The animals were flown from Namibia to Gwalior and from there they were taken to the release site in a helicopter. Official sources have stated that this is the first time a large carnivorous species has been moved across continents for establishing a new population. This first release will be followed by others under this project. However, precisely for this reason, it is important to be cautious because if such translocations have been generally avoided in the past, there may have been reasons for this and at the same time we do not have much learning experiences from the past. The Cheetah became extinct in India in 1952, although this very fast moving animal is still remembered in the folklore of many areas. Hence the first impulse is to say that trying to introduce and revive

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Introducing non-native cheetahs is 'not equivalent' to restoring pride in the nation

By Bappaditya Mukhopadhyay*  The Cheetahs from the African continent has finally been introduced to India by the Indian Prime Minister on his 72nd birthday. The process had started with the previous Government in 2009. However, the Supreme Court clearance was pending owing to the objection by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) plea to reintroduce cheetahs. Finally the clearance was obtained in January 2020 and thereafter Kuno National Park (KNP) was chosen for the reintroduction of first set of Southeast African Cheetahs. In the near future, depending upon the success story of the current reintroduction, more cheetahs from South Africa may also be introduced. This exercise has generated a lot of interest among various stakeholders with opinions on both sides galore. It is important to pose some questions that surround the whole exercise. Let us evaluate some of these arguments. The first set of arguments are quite detached from the issues of conservation as they most

'Military diplomacy': US praises Bangladesh Army for leadership role in UN operations

By Kamal Uddin Mazumder* As the Indo-Pacific region represents the world’s economic and strategic center of gravity, the Indian Ocean today is becoming the centerpiece of all geo-strategic play. Cooperation in the region is crucial to implementing the international community’s global agenda, including achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Major powers like the US have enhanced and deepened their strategic engagement and leadership roles with countries in the region. The Indo-Pacific Army Management Seminar, or IPAMS, is a U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC) initiated conference that is aimed at facilitating and enhancing interactions among the armies of the Indo-Pacific region. This year's 46th Indo-Pacific Armies Management Seminar (IPAMS)-2022, co-hosted by the Bangladesh Army and US Army Pacific (USARPAC), concluded in Dhaka. The objective of IPAMS is to promote peace and stability in the region through mutual understanding, dialogue, and friendship. It is the largest confer