Durban's proposed King Shaka International Airport moved a step closer to becoming a reality after the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) gave the multi-million rand project the green light on Thursday.The department said in a statement that DEAT director general Pam Yako signed the Record of Decision in Cape Town on Thursday authorising the Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA) to develop a trade port at la Mercy, North of Durban. The department's approval followed an environmental impact assessment report. There were certain conditions attached to the approval of the Idube Tradeport, which would include the airport. Yako was quoted in the statement as saying: "We have prescribed certain conditions and in this regard we insist on the appointment of an environmental control officer whose duty it is to ensure that periodic environmental performance audits are undertaken on the project implementation". Other conditions include issues of access to the construction from the N2, a water management regime that complies with the prescripts of the water affairs department, strict precautions on the management of hazardous waste, management plans that will take care of fuel spillages and issues relating to noise and compliance with other legislation in this regard. Yako said she also considered the impact on the fauna and flora prevalent in the area. She was quoted as saying: "The specialist study concluded that the barn swallows will not migrate to another area either during construction or operation of the proposed development. As long as the wetland habitat is not impacted upon, the birds will keep on utilising the wetland as a habitat." Birdlife International, a British-based international avian wildlife group, had registered opposition to the announcement of the airport in 2006 when the national transport department gave its approval for the project. It claimed that the Mount Moreland Reedbed where the barn swallows nest would be the flight-path for aircraft landing and taking off at the airport. Birdlife International also claimed that eight percent of the breeding population of the European barn swallows would be negatively affected by the construction of the airport. One of the conditions in the record of decision posted on the DEAT website states that "flight schedules must be planned around the flight times of the (barn) swallows." The KwaZulu-Natal government welcomed the DEAT decision. KwaZulu-Natal premier Sbu Ndebele said: "This means work on the construction of the R6.8-billion Airport and Trade Port will now begin in earnest. This also means that we will be able to meet our March 2010 deadline for the completion of this flagship project with all the economic spin-offs, particularly in the creation of thousands of jobs that will follow. "This is a phenomenal development. As Premier of the Province of KwaZulu-Natal, I wish to thank all involved for this exciting development, particularly the National Department of Transport, our own Provincial Government, eThekwini Municipality, the Dube Trade Port Company, ACSA and indeed the general public for their positive contributions," he said. When launched, the project, which includes the Idube Tradeport, was estimated to cost R2.5-billion. Earlier this year KwaZulu-Natal finance MEC Zweli Mkhize said it would cost R5.3-billion.