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Racecourse to come up near Navi Mumbai airport? Animal activists doubt CIDCO's horse sense

Even as the ruling Shiv Sena-BJP combine tries to rein in dissent at Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) over its proposition for the Mahalaxmi racecourse, plans are afoot in Navi Mumbai to develop a similar circuit. NAINA Navi Mumbai Airport Influence Notified Area measuring 600 square kilometre, has a lot of land where they can accommodate such a facility, say senior City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) officials.

Navi Mumbai Airport
Navi Mumbai Airport Influence Notified Area comprises parts of Uran, Panvel, Karjat, Pen, Khalapur and Thane apart from about 270 villages

However, some animal lovers and activists are sceptical of the idea, as they feel setting up a racecourse anywhere near the airport would imperil the equines. CIDCO functionaries claim development of the circuit wouldn’t even require government funds, as a private partnership would be sufficient. Interestingly, since mid-May the Shiv Sena-led BMC has shown disinclination towards renewing the lease of Mahalaxmi racecourse, and on several occasions, senior party leaders have hinted that the facility should be shifted to Navi Mumbai or some other location.

The party aspires to develop an international theme park where the racecourse currently stands. A senior official from CIDCO said, “There’s hardly any space in present-day Navi Mumbai where one can accommodate a racecourse. But we have ample room in NAINA, which is nearly 600 square kilometres.” NAINA comprises areas from Uran, Panvel, Karjat, Pen, Khalapur and Thane apart from about 270 villages. When contacted by MiD DAY, Sanjay Bhatia, managing director of CIDCO, preferred to remain silent on the subject.

However, striking a cautionary note, Col Dr JC Khanna, secretary of Bombay Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BSPCA), maintained that CIDCO must ensure that the new racecourse is nowhere near the planned airport, as otherwise the constant noise would adversely affect the animals. Even if the horses were in stables, with planes frequently landing and taking off in the vicinity, they would remain uneasy, he said.

On the other hand, sources from CIDCO said, “If needed, the racecourse plans may even be included in the blueprint of NAINA. Private party funds would be adequate for construction of the racecourse , in case the government doesn’t finance it.” Meanwhile, in Mumbai, the racecourse issue has not yet reached a definite conclusion, as both the BMC and the state government owners of the nearly 250-acre open space are at loggerheads over whether to extend its lease, which expired on May 31. Sena has even issued a design and made clear its plan. But the state government is still mum on the matter.

600 sq km
Total expanse to be developed under the Navi Mumbai Airport Influence Notified Area  

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