“Agencies' reports favour it over Kalyan as suitable location”

Union Minister of Agriculture Sharad Pawar on Saturday voiced his support for the Navi Mumbai site for the proposed international airport in Mumbai.

While addressing mediapersons after a Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leaders' meet here, Mr. Pawar said reports submitted by various State agencies clearly favoured Navi Mumbai over Kalyan as a suitable location.

“Mumbai's connectivity should improve. The Government of India should select, finalise and make available a suitable site for the airport soon,” he said.

Thermal projects

When asked about the fate of a number of thermal power plant projects that were to come up in the Konkan (coastal region of Maharashtra), Mr. Pawar said he discussed the issue with Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh.

“He told me that the Ministry of Environment and Forests has not put on hold those projects which have already received the Environment Impact Assessment [EIA] clearance. Only those projects which have not received EIA will be put on hold to be scrutinised,” Mr. Pawar said.

Though he said the environmental concerns in the region would be addressed, Mr. Pawar also advocated the selection of the Konkan region for building thermal power projects.

“Maharashtra has less availability of water. In the Konkan, the sea water will act as a ready source for the plants. Moreover, the location also makes sense considering the raw material used,” he said, adding that India has to import coal, and that building a thermal plant close to the coast would save the cost of transportation of coal inland.

Mr. Pawar pulled up State leaders and raised concerns over the disruption in the Maharashtra Assembly over the Question Hour session, saying that many reporters and leaders had told him about the builders' lobby dictating questions in the Assembly.

“Leaders have stopped asking questions which are in public interest,” he said.

Lavasa hill-station

On the environmental issues raised about Lavasa, the first planned hill station city in India, Mr. Pawar said it had come up only after the recommendations of a high-power committee which submitted a 350-page report.

“Post-independence, no hill station has been developed in the country. The report had recommended encouraging the private sector in building hill stations,” he said.

Angered at being consistently targeted by the Shiv Sena and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), Mr. Pawar said: “Those who can't keep their homes and their organisations united should not talk of unifying Maharashtra.”

Referring to Uddhav Thackeray and Raj Thackeray as “childish,” he challenged Mr. Uddhav Thackeray to contest the elections before criticising popular leaders.

On the implementation of State-level policies, Mr. Pawar said: “Why is Maharashtra spending so little on the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme? Look at the expenditure of the other States. Maharashtra spent only Rs.219 crore last year.”

He lauded Raman Singh, Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh, for initiatives in e-governance and the way it had helped farmers in the State.

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