The Navi Mumbai airport project appears to have passed the Environment Ministry's scrutiny after a key panel expressed satisfaction over the revised proposal submitted by project developer CIDCO (City and Industrial Development Corporation of Maharashtra Ltd.).

It now remains for Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh to take a final call.

“No more clarifications are needed from CIDCO. We will give our recommendations to the Ministry within the next two to three days,” said Naresh Dayal, chair of the Expert Appraisal Committee, speaking to journalists after his panel's meeting here on Wednesday.

Senior CIDCO officials also indicated that they were positive about an approval as no further issues remained pending, after months of going back and forth trying to formulate a project proposal that would meet green norms. Ecological concerns about the destruction of 400 acres of mangrove forests and a small hill, as well as the diversion of two rivers had delayed the environmental clearance.

Over the past year, the Environment Ministry were under pressure from the Civil Aviation Ministry and the Maharashtra government to push through the proposal. In early September, the Prime Minister's office intervened, forwarding a request from the Maharashtra Chief Minister to the Environment Ministry to expedite the project. Mr. Ramesh replied, promising to “find a way out, providing there is cooperation from the Civil Aviation Ministry and the State government.”

Accordingly, CIDCO was persuaded to compromise and draft a revised proposal, shifting non-aeronautical facilities such as hotels and shopping areas away from the original site. This meant that the mangroves, which provided crucial protection to Mumbai's coastal ecosystem, would be safeguarded.

Reducing the distance between the two runways from 1,835 metres to 1,500 metres will also ensure that the Gadhi river will not have to be diverted.

The Ulwe river is likely to flow underneath the airport site, according to the revised CIDCO plan.

The Navi Mumbai airport has been in the works since December 2000, when the Civil Aviation Ministry suggested the site as a second aviation hub for the burgeoning financial metropolis of Mumbai.

After the Union Cabinet approved the proposal in 2007, steps were taken to amend the coastal zone regulations to allow the project to go forward.