Navi Mumbai International Airport: 50 held after protest by project-affected residents

Nearly 200 residents affected by the under-construction Navi Mumbai International Airport (NMIA) staged a demonstration on Tuesday against the closure of the access road to Waghivali village. The police said at least 50 protesters have been detained.

Officials of the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO), the nodal agency for the NMIA project, said trenching of the road was undertaken as a temporary measure to shift high-tension electricity lines.

“A peaceful protest began when officials arrived and started work on the main access road to Waghivali. By afternoon, dozens of village residents were hauled away to the police station,” said Sanjay Thakur, a local activist.

Waghivali, a predominantly fishing village, was not originally among the affected villages, said CIDCO officials. While the Waghivali land is not required for the NMIA and was not to be acquired, the creek-side hamlet will be isolated once the airport is built. Residents of Waghivali have been negotiating with CIDCO for a rehabilitation package.

“High tension lines of Tata Power and Mahavitaran cutting across the airport area are to be shifted underground so that they are not in the funnel area of the airport. The road trenching is for this purpose,” said Dr Prashant Narnaware, joint managing director of CIDCO.

He said work will continue and will not be stalled, but that villagers’ concerns will be tackled, whether they choose to be relocated or wish to continue living in Waghivali. “This land is not for any commercial purpose for the new airport, we will only build a mangrove park in this region,”

Senior Inspector of NRI police station Tanveer Shaikh said at least 50-70 protesters were detained from Waghivali. “We are yet to decide if a case will be registered against them.”