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States clamour for new airports in small towns

From Chiethu in the remote northeast to Chakan in the country's western industrial hub, India may see as many as 100 new airports over the next five years, report Samiran Saha and Gaurav Choudhury.

india Updated: Jan 20, 2008 22:06 IST

From Chiethu in the remote northeast to Chakan in the country's western industrial hub, India may see as many as 100 new airports over the next five years, if plans by state governments were to come true.



Some states have already begun inviting bids from private companies, while others are seeking a bit more help from the central government so they could also join the party.



"We are encouraging state governments to identify the locations. Some states like Karnataka and Maharashtra are moving very fast," said Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel.



His comments came at a national conference on civil aviation, where the limelight fell on what states could do to further promote air travel, which is already growing at a fast pace.



According to the Civil Aviation Ministry, as many as 100 new and existing airports can be built or upgraded over the next five years.



The target appears ambitious, given the fact that there are currently 127 airports operational in the country.



Participation of the private sector will be crucial, ministry officials said. The proposed airports will cost about Rs 36,000 crore in new investment, a third of which could come from the government while the rest from the private sector.



The government of Andhra Pradesh has already invited tentative bids for eight new airports.



"We will invite expression of interest from interested parties shortly for building airports in small cities," said Sanjay Jaju, managing director of Infrastructure Corporation of Andhra Pradesh Ltd. These will include Nellore, Ongole, Tadepallegundem, Bobbili, Kothagundem, Ramagundem and Karnool, Jaju told

Hindustan Times

.



Neighbouring Karnataka has invited bids for development of airports in Bijapur, Shimoga, Hasan and Gulbarga and international airport developers have shown interest in these.



In West Bengal, where government-owned Airports Authority of India (AAI) is modernising the Kolkata airport in the state capital, the state government is also vetting a proposal for an aretropolis (airport city) between Asansol and Durgapur, which fall in the mineral rich belt of the state.



West Bengal is also exploring the possibility of a cargo hub in Dum Dum, 60 kilometers from the existing airport in Kolkata.



In Maharashtra, two new airports are being planned at Chakan and Sindhudurg, while Haryana is exploring the prospect of a new airport in Jhajjar near Delhi.



In the Northeast, plans are afoot for airports in Pekyong in Sikkim, Chiethu in Nagaland, Itanagar and Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh, and Kokrajhar in Assam.



Modernisation of 35 airports in non-metro cities such as Ahmedabad, Guwahati and Jammu is already underway. Unlike Delhi and Mumbai airports, where these were handed over to private consortia, the government has decided to separate the non-aeronautical and aeronautical aspects for the modernisation programme of these airports.