Panaji: The Goa government`s decision to quickly complete a controversial airport project at Mopa near the Maharashtra border is being criticised by the state`s political parties and civil society members.
"Why is the BJP government pushing at breakneck speed for an airport that will sound a death knell for tourism in Goa? It is unfair to build an airport close to the border. We favour a central place such as Ponda (central Goa) for the new airport if the government says so, but not in Mopa," Radharai Gracias, vice president of United Goans Democratic Party (UGDP), told a news agency.
The Goa Cabinet April 23 gave a "in principle" nod to the airport`s Rs 2,500-crore master plan to be completed by 2015.
Global tenders will be floated soon for the project in north Goa, which will be run on a build-own-operate-transfer (BOOT) basis for 30 years.
However, leaders of the UGDP, a party from south Goa, feel that the airport`s proximity to Maharashtra`s beaches such as Tarkarli, Malvan, Ganapatipule and Sindhudurg would reduce the flow of tourists into Goa.
"We will lose our tourism to Maharashtra if this airport comes into existence," Gracias said.
Questions have also been raised about the necessity for a second airport at all when Goa has an international airport at Dabolim, only 80 km away from the proposed airport at Mopa.
"What is Manohar Parrikar`s (the chief minister) interest in rushing this project when he is yet to resolve other issues promised in the BJP manifesto?" Jose Miranda, a member of Village Groups of Goa, a civil society collective.
The Mopa airport project has been in hanging fire for six years due to an apparent divide between north and south Goa over drawing tourists. The south Goan politicians feel an airport in the north would be bad for tourism in the south.
Along with this, the issue of politicians buying real estate near an airport site has made the project more controversial. The acquisition of farmland for the project and the resultant displacement of local inhabitants have added fuel to the fire among the people.
Yet, successive governments have backed the project, saying that it would help boost tourism in north Goa.
"Most Goans do not want an airport at Mopa. The best way to settle the issue is an opinion poll," said Ivo Faleiro, a resident of Margao. "An airport will also do irreparable damage to the area`s flora and fauna."