Will the proposed airport in Greater Noida be another ghost airport in the making?
As first reported by HT on April 13, the UP government has sought the Centre’s permission for setting up an international airport in Jewar, Greater Noida, paving the way for a second airport in the national capital region.
However, with Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International airport (IGIA) nowhere near its saturation point many doubt whether a second airport, that too within 150 km radius of the existing one, would be viable.
To start with, the government will have to amend the rule that disallows a second airport within 150 km radius of an existing one for the airport in NCR to become a reality. The proposed Jewar airport is 84 km from IGIA and around 2378 acres of land has already been acquired for the project.
At present, sources said IGIA is equipped to handle the rising growth of air traffic. As of now the total terminal passenger capacity at IGIA airport is 62 million passengers per annum against the actual traffic of approx 41 million passengers handled in financial year 2014-15. It has a cargo capacity of 1.5 million tonne against traffic of 0.7 million tonne in 2014-15.
As per the master plan, IGIA is expected to handle 109 million passengers in the year 2034. The GMR Group, which operates IGIA, would be the preferred developer and have the right of first refusal for new project, as well.
The government has spent more than $50 million over the last seven years on eight airports that do not handle a single flight. The Chandigarh International Airport, around 250 km from Delhi and built at a cost of around Rs 1400 crore, which was inaugurated by Prime Minister in September 2015, has failed to attract airlines to start international operations as yet. The new airport in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan lies unused over two years after its completion. Many fear, the same fate awaits the Greater Noida airport, as well.
“A new airport in Jewar will adversely impact both passenger traffic and revenues of IGI. Most airlines would not be keen to invest in the new airport,” said aviation expert Rajji Rai.
Big cities do have two airports like in China and the West but there have been cases like the Mirabel Airport in Canada, which failed to take off due to its proximity to Montreal.
The Jewar airport proposal was first in 2001 by the then UP CM Rajnath Singh and later pushed by his successor Mayawati. It, however, got the cold shoulder after the Samajwadi Party came to power in the state. But with state elections, next year, the Akhilesh Yadav government, which had been insisting for an international airport in Agra, has now shed its opposition to the project.
Mahesh Sharma, the Gautam Budh Nagar MP and minister of state for aviation has been a strong supporter of Jewar airport project. “The need for an international airport in Jewar, Greater Noida needs to be discussed in the wider interest of the nation. It needs to be discussed in the interest of offloading and decentralizing traffic at the Delhi airport which would be choked in some years,” Sharma had said in November 2014 after his appointment in the ministry of civil aviation.
“While the government needs to plan for the future so that we don’t meet the same fate as Mumbai, it needs to ensure that there is no wastage of public money,” said a senior airline official.