20-year wait ends, Navi Mumbai airport to take-off

  • Saurabh Katkurwar, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: May 18, 2016 00:35 IST
Getting private owners to part with their land, which will be used for the core area of the airport, took almost five years. (HT File)

Stuck in red tape for more than two decades, the Navi Mumbai International Airport (NMIA) project is finally set to take off.

The excitement is palpable at the City and Industrial Development Corporation (Cidco) office in Belapur, where a team of senior officers, including joint managing director V Radha, is busy ensuring the minor issues are solved, so the construction work can start within a few months.

Radha, an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer who was tasked with putting the airport work on fast track, says all major hurdles have been cleared.

The agency will soon award contracts for pre-development works such as cutting of hill, levelling of marshy land, diversion of a river and shifting of high-tension power lines that need to be completed before the airport development work begins.

“The pre-development work will start by the end of monsoon. A major part of the work will be completed before the appointment of the developer. We are in the advanced stage of the tendering process and the developer will be appointed by February next year. According to our schedule, the first flight should take off from the airport by 2019,” said Radha, who is credited for solving the complex land acquisition issues in a time-bound manner.

Reaching this stage hasn’t been easy. Most believed the work on the project would start in 2011, when the environment ministry gave its clearance, touted as a major hurdle till then. But getting the land from farmers and villagers, which accounted for 25% of the required land, proved to be tough.

Getting private owners to part with their land, which will be used for the core area of the airport, took almost five years.

In the backdrop of the bitter tussle over the land acquisition for special economic zones in Raigad district, farmers and villagers refused to cooperate with Cidco. They had no faith in the agency and were convinced their land would be taken away and they would be rehabilitated in some far-off areas. They also wanted the compensation to be hiked.

Radha and her officers gave them a patient hearing and convinced the government to give them a better package.

The change in the government actually worked in their favour, as chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, too, is keen to start the infrastructure project at the earliest.

“We have acquired more than 160 hectares of the total 292 hectares of private land that we needed. The remaining work will be completed in the next few months. We have started rehabilitating the project affected families by giving them plots in Pushpak Nagar,” Radha said.

Cidco is likely to get the last clearance — stage 2 forest clearance – in two months. The agency has decided to appoint third-party and independent consultants to tackle unnecessary administrative interventions.

According to Radha, all processes related to the project have been streamlined, and if everything goes according to the plan, the Rs16,700-crore project will be able to cater to 60 million passengers by 2030.

Initially, the airport will see a footfall of two to three million passengers annually, and it will reach its projected figure of 10 million in due course of time, say Cidco officials. The airport will have two runways.

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