Domestic fliers will land and take-off from Mumbai at Sahar instead of Santacruz by 2010. By that time all domestic flights will operate from the airport's current international wing, Union Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said at a discussion in HT's Mahim office on Saturday.
The two terminals at Santa cruz will then exclusively handle cargo instead of domestic flights to cater to an expected jump in freight volumes in the coming years as Wal-Mart, Reliance and other retailers expand rapidly, he said.
"There is no space to move an inch in this (Mumbai's) land-locked airport," Patel said, adding that passenger traffic had grown by 50 per cent this year. "One airport should not have terminals at two different locations… Master planning on redevelopment is almost complete. It is a very complicated task, but I can guarantee that the existing airport will be converted into a new one by 2010."
Once modernised, the Mumbai airport will be able to handle 40 million passengers a year, up from about 20 million in the year to March 2007, according to the Mumbai International Airport Ltd (MIAL), the body redeveloping the airport. But the redeveloped airport will be saturated by 2012, when traffic will touch the 40-million mark, according to MIAL.
Considering this rapid growth, there was no option but to complete the construction of a second airport at Navi Mumbai as soon as possible, he said. "If we don't act fast, Mumbai will be the loser."
Patel then put the ball in Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh's court. "If he can give us land, we can start work immediately," he said. "Even if he can allot a large portion of land by 2007 and give a commitment to transferring the balance later, we can complete the new airport by 2012. It is a challenge and I am willing to accept it."
Patel said his ministry had identified a site and completed the technical feasibility study.
He said he had met Deshmukh several times, but the state had not allotted any land.