Navi Mumbai airport faces air-pockets aplenty

Adith Charlie Rahul Wadke | Updated on July 22, 2014 Published on July 22, 2014

Land acquisition and other hurdles have left plans for Mumbai’s second airport stuck on the ground

When the plan for Mumbai’s second airport was conceived in 1997, carriers such as Skyline NEPC and Sahara Airlines were a part of the landscape. Today, both have been consigned to the aviation archives.

However, the project status of the Navi Mumbai International Airport has still not changed from ‘proposed’ to ‘operational’ The estimated start date of the airport has been pushed back by at least four years. And cost projections have gone up by 66 per cent to ₹14,500 crore since 2010.

With Mumbai’s air traffic poised to treble in the next eight years, and the present airport unable to handle the increase in flight operations, there is an urgent need to fast-track the Navi Mumbai project.

A big question mark looms over the acquisition of land. A major bone of contention between the State Government, which is to undertake the project, and the Project Affected People (PAP) has been the terms of the compensation, say industry watchers.

Last year, a breakthrough was achieved when the PAPs agreed to a deal from the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) of Maharashtra, the nodal agency responsible for the project.

CIDCO’s Managing Director Sanjay Bhatia told BusinessLine that 1,400 of the 2,000 hectares of land for the new airport have been acquired and that negotiations were on for the remainder.

A majority of the PAPs have signed up for the 22.5 per cent rehabilitation programme, under which they will get developed land at a Floor Space Index (FSI) of 2. (An FSI of 2 means that the total floor area of a building is two times the gross area of its plot).

In February, CIDCO floated a Request for Qualification to develop the airport on a public-private-partnership model, said Bhatia. This generated interest among major corporates such as the GMR Group, GVK’s Mumbai International Airport Private Ltd, Samsung C&T and Zurich Airport. Bhatia predicts that the Navi Mumbai airport will begin operations by December 2018. However, not everybody agrees.

And a river runs through it

The Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation, in a recent report, said further delays are possible and that the airport is unlikely to be operational before 2020. It expects actual costs to escalate and that investor interest will diminish due to the issues associated with the project.

There are challenges with the preparatory earthworks that ought to be conducted at the proposed site. The work involves diverting the Ulwe river, which cuts across the site. The absence of convenient surface connectivity between Greater Mumbai and the new airport is also seen as a deterrent.

Given the mounting losses in the aviation sector, the question of how many carriers will be around when the Navi Mumbai airport takes off is moot.

Published on July 22, 2014

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