Thursday 25 Jul 2024

GMR has to own up to flooding around Mopa airport

| JULY 08, 2024, 12:29 AM IST

Goa was battered by incessant showers for much of Sunday resulting in water-logging, flooding, landslides, cave-ins and deaths as weak and poorly built infrastructure crumbled under the weight of another rainy day in the state. What stood out, however, is the extent of flooding that is seen in the villages around the newly-build Mopa airport which have been completely inundated with torrents of water that came gushing down the Mopa plateau in never-before-seen levels.

This was never a problem before the airport was built no matter how much rain battered the state and the Pernem taluka in particular. The plateau took it all throughout the year and it fed the springs and streams that emerged from the hillsides that fed the villages even before the government water supply reached their homes. Things are not the same now. For the third year in a row, torrential rain has meant mudslides, flooding and entire villages being cut off from the main road rendering them inaccessible.

GMR Infrastructure which has built and is operating the Mopa airport must own up to this. At the time of building the Airport GMR had promised that it was taking several green initiatives of which rainwater harvesting was a prominent inclusion. The Airport promoters, even today, claim that the newly built Mopa airport has provisions for storm-water and rainwater harvesting towards water conservation and re-use and that its passenger terminal got platinum certification from the Indian Green Building Council. They also claimed to plant 50,000 trees using the Miyawaki method (native plants specific to regional climatic conditions).

It must also be noted that GMR had initially thought of only installing two water harvesting pits for the entire airport project and it was only after the Environmental Clearance was challenged before the National Green Tribunal that the NGT mandated that they place other pits at such locations to capture all the excess drainage for water recharge.

Other measures ordered to be put in place by the NGT included soil management to avoid spills, debris and muck management soil conservation and stabilisation measures besides also seeking that remediation, restoration and compensation needs to be integral parts of policy to provide adequate relief for any environmental or project related disasters.

Very little is known about whether these rainwater recharge pits have actually been built or whether other conditions mandated by the NGT have indeed been put in place at the airport. But if the experience of the local villagers is anything to go by, either these measures have not been put in place or they have been done only in a disingenuous manner caring too little for what the villagers living below the airport suffer.

What we have is a once vibrant plateau large parts of which are now completely paved either for necessary parts like the runway, taxiway and terminal but also for parking lots for cars visiting the airports. The flattened paved surface now leaves very little opportunity for the water to soak into the plateau and rejuvenate the aquifer as it once did.

The need of the hour is an independent audit of whether the green measures that GMR promised at the time of building the airport have indeed been put in place and accountability from GMR in case they have failed.

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