Not off the ground
The Ministry of Civil Aviation shouldn’t have have any problems in giving the nod to the techno-economic feasibility study report prepared by the Uttar Pradesh government for setting up Delhi’s second international greenfield airport at Greater Noida. The proposed airport project spread across 1,500 hectares would cost over Rs. 3,500 crore and will hopefully put two other second-airport projects — the Rs 9,000-crore Navi Mumbai airport project, and Chennai’s greenfield airport in Sriperumbudur — on a fast track. This couldn’t have come sooner as recent studies show that Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Chennai, Pune, Nagpur, Ahmedabad and Amritsar will each need another airport in the next ten years. Most metros will reach saturation point by 2010, while others will become saturated by 2015.
Thus when the two greenfield airports in Bangalore and Hyderabad become operational next year, they will apparently be just in time to ease the load on the existing airports. It appears that Kolkata airport, too, needs a second airport by 2010, never mind the cosmetic changes being made by the Airports Authority of India to modernise it.
It is ironic that the spurt in domestic aviation reveals such a complete lack of planning by civil aviation authorities to offer an appropriate response. This is most evident in the limited infrastructure at airports — the biggest hurdle before the growth of the industry — that compel aircraft to take, on average, seven times longer to take off than elsewhere in the world. Many airports have limited landing and parking slots during peak hours, and overcrowded terminals where passengers struggle to wade through check-in and security screening. Limited manpower and under-utilisation of available equipment make matters worse.
Therefore, till the new airports become operational, authorities should focus on sprucing up the existing ones. Even simple methods like using chemicals to remove rubber deposits (from wheels during touchdown) on runways, and strengthening pavements of the taxiways and the apron to avoid frequent maintenance, could go a long way in augmenting the existing infrastructure.
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