May 23, 2024

Wrong positioning decision: Mumbai’s new airport has a flamingo problem

A second major airport is being built near Mumbai. Experts are sounding the alarm and attesting to an acute problem of striking birds.

Indian aviation is booming. The country’s airlines announced several large orders in quick succession. Air India has ordered 470 aircraft from Airbus and Boeing. Newborn Akasa Air has bought 72 Boeing 737 Max planes and Indigo plans to buy another large order.

This is also evident in local traffic. According to figures released by the Indian aviation authority DGCA, around 12.5 million passengers traveled within India in January alone. The country’s airports have reached capacity limits. Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport handled more than 50 million passengers last year.

The second airport should bring relief

The airport is hopelessly overcrowded. That is why a second airport has been in place in the Mumbai region since 2018. Navi Mumbai International Airport is scheduled to open in late 2024 and will initially be able to handle 20 million passengers annually. After its completion in 2032, the airport is expected to have a capacity of 90 million passengers annually.

Aviation experts are now pointing to the security risk in the project, which has now cost nearly $2 billion: bird strikes. As there are two major bird sanctuaries near the Navi Mumbai International Airport. This is the starting point and feeding ground for many species of migratory birds. In addition, a large number of flamingos live nearby, according to broadcaster TZ Al Jazeera.

Central bird sanctuary

SM Satheesan, an expert in bird collision prevention, considers the location of the new airport “extremely dangerous”, especially when it comes to collisions with large birds. “Now the flamingos will be destroyed at the Navi Mumbai site, as there is a flamingo sanctuary nearby,” the expert told Al-Jazeera.

BN Kumar, president of the environmental association Nat Connect, takes a similar view: “Migratory birds are very loyal to their location.” Therefore, wetlands must be maintained to prevent birds from entering the airport grounds. About 1,160 hectares of mangrove forests will be cleared and drained for the construction of the airport.

Drop off at airports

A spokesman for Mumbai’s new airport dismissed concerns that the site might be vulnerable to bird strikes. The nearby Karnala Bird Sanctuary is not on the itinerary. In addition, the airport company has developed alternative breeding grounds for birds in the area. The only question remains whether the birds will accept the artificial premises.