Navi Mumbai airport may miss 2019 deadline, says civil aviation secretary

RN Choubey says it’s tough to ensure the first flight from the upcoming airport will take off by 2019-end
For Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis, the Navi Mumbai International Airport is one of the showcase projects he wants to unveil before the 2019 Assembly polls.(HT FILE)
For Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis, the Navi Mumbai International Airport is one of the showcase projects he wants to unveil before the 2019 Assembly polls.(HT FILE)
Updated on May 11, 2018 12:17 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | ByNeha LM Tripathi, Mumbai

While the state government has been consistent that the first flight from Navi Mumbai International Airport (NMIAL) will take off by 2019 end, civil aviation secretary RN Choubey on Thursday said that though the ministry is working hard to meet the deadline, commencement of flight operations by next year end seems difficult.

Speaking to the media on the sidelines of the sixth edition of the US-India Aviation Summit , Choubey said, “I am happy to say that work (on the new airport) is on schedule.” When asked if the state government will meet the 2019 deadline, Choubey added, “It would be tough for us to do that (meet the 2019 deadline), but we would like to try for it, but it would be tough.”

This comes almost three months after chief minister Devendra Fadnavis during the groundbreaking ceremony of the greenfield airport by Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said that one terminal building and one runway will be ready by December 2019. “We are confident of (meeting the deadline) as we are getting a lot of support,” Fadnavis had said.

For Fadnavis, NMIAL is one of the showcase projects that he wants to unveil before 2019 assembly polls, and has been closely the monitoring its progress.

In January this year, GVK Power and Infrastructure (GVKPIL) signed a concession agreement with CIDCO, which is the nodal agency to execute NMIAL. 

Choubey said there have been detailed discussions over the Navi Mumbai airport plans with both the state government and CIDCO. In April, Choubey had held a review meeting with the state government, Airports Authority of India (AAI) and Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). 

While the public relations officer (PRO) of City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) remained unavailable for comment, senior officials maintained they would be able to meet the 2019 deadline.

At present, land filling via controlled blasting of hills in the area is being carried out at the airport site. An official close to the development said, “CIDCO hired four contractors to fill up 5.5m marshy land and another 2.5m land that would be filled by GVKPIL. However, many villagers have not vacated the land, which has slowed down the process of land filling.”

Choubey, who had visited the site in early April, had set a May 31 deadline for relocating project-affected villagers. On April 27, many of the project-affected people (PAP) led by women stopped road work in their village. The road work was being undertaken to facilitate the movements of vehicles for the airport project  work. 

An industry analyst on condition of anonymity said, “The land has numerous issues not only with respect to PAP but also has engineering issues such raising the height of the land and diverting the Ulwe river. The airport will therefore take a minimum of four to five years for its first flight. The 2019 deadline seems to have been done in view of the state elections that are scheduled next year.”

The state government last month formed a task force to fast track NMIAL.This task force comprising secretaries from various state departments, the Navi Mumbai police commissioner and the CIDCO general manager also has the general manager of Central Railway, the Navi Mumbai municipal commissioner and the Panvel municipal commissioner on board as special invitees. 

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