PM lays foundation stone for Navi Mumbai airport, first flight to take off in 2019

PM lays foundation stone for Navi Mumbai airport, first flight to take off in 2019
PM Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone on Sunday

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday laid the foundation stone for the first phase of the Rs 16,700-crore Navi Mumbai international airport, which will lessen the burden on the already saturated single-runway Mumbai airport.

The work on the airport is finally set to begin, around 21 years after the idea was first mooted.

“While the aviation sector is growing fast (clipping at 20 percent for the past many months), aviation infrastructure is lagging behind this. Our endeavour is to increase the speed of work,” Modi said after performing the ground-breaking ceremony for the airport.

The function was also attended by governor CH Vidyasagar Rao, Union transport minister Nitin Gadkari, state chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, and GVK Reddy of the GVK Group which is building the airport in association with state-run infra development agency CICDO in a 74:26 equity structure.

PM lays foundation stone for Navi Mumbai airport, first flight to take off in 2019 2
Governor CH Vidyasagar Rao, Union transport minister Nitin Gadkari and state chief minister Devendra Fadnavis were present at the ceremony

Modi said the Navi Mumbai airport is one of the many projects worth over Rs 10 trillion (Rs 10 lakh crore) which were stuck and his government has provided funds and it is now progressing.

“I believe the airport will be operational on time,” he said without putting a timelime to it.

Though CICDO as been claiming that the first phase with 10 million passenger capacity would be ready by 2019, junior aviation minister had said the work would not be over before the next five years.

Modi accused the previous governments of not realising the growth potential of the aviation sector and not having a policy in place to support the growing requirement.

“No one earlier realised the growth potential this sector has. There was no policy in place for this sector. But we have brought in,” he said, adding the sector is growing so fast that in the past one year alone as many as 900 planes were booked by various airlines, which is exactly the double the present fleet of 450 planes in the country.

The Rs 16,700-crore Navi Mumbai airport was planned way back in 1997 as a secondary airport to meet the growing needs of Mumbai at an investment of Rs 3,000 crore.

The project was inordinately delayed due to a myriad of factors, including political indecision, issues of environmental clearances and the funding.

The City Industrial Development Corporation (CICDO), which is developing the new airport along with GVK Group, expects the first flight to take off in 2019.

The GVK Group holds 74 percent stake in the project, the rest being held by the CICDO and the Airports Authority.

However, the land needed for the airport–over 2,268 hectares of which nearly 1,160 hectares will be used for aeronautical purposes–is yet to be fully acquired. Ten villages in Navi Mumbai have been impacted by the proposed airport.

Until now, CICDO has rehabilitated close to 400 of the 3,500 affected families.

Each family has been offered alternative plots, monetary compensation, construction aid, rent allowances and additional amenities in the Pushpak Nagar where they will be rehabilitated.

The new airport will have two parallel runways, and will handle close to 80 flights an hour.

PM lays foundation stone for Navi Mumbai airport, first flight to take off in 2019 1
An artist’s rendition of an airport with parallel runways (Courtesy: Louis Berger)

It is expected to significantly ease the load of the congested Mumbai airport, which handles over 900 flights a day (the peak was 980 flights in mid-January), and is known as the world’s busiest single-runway facility, accounting for almost over 25 percent of the entire air traffic in the country.

The first phase is likely to be completed by the end of 2019, with one runway and the terminal building ready to handle up to 10 million passengers.

The second phase, to be completed by 2022, will take the handling capacity to 25 million passengers.

The third phase will be completed by 2027, and at the completion of the fourth phase by 2031, the capacity will be 60 million passengers.

The Mumbai airport’s capacity is 40 million, but since 2016 it has been handling many more millions of passengers.

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