Buildings, hotels in way of Juhu airport project
The state government’s plan to convert the Juhu aerodrome into a full-fledged airport may have to be aborted as the operational challenges revealed in the project’s blueprint could prove to be insurmountable. Soubhik Mitra reports.Updated: Aug 02, 2013 01:20 IST
The state government’s plan to convert the Juhu aerodrome into a full-fledged airport may have to be aborted as the operational challenges revealed in the project’s blueprint could prove to be insurmountable.
The draft prepared by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) was presented to the government last week.
Sources said the relocation of the runway would require demolition of many residential buildings and portions of at least two prominent hotels on Juhu Tara Road. Also, though the runway will be constructed parallel to the Mumbai airport’s main airstrip to avoid traffic disruptions, it will be rendered useless when the city airport switches operations to its secondary runway.
The secondary runway is frequently used for small periods for routine maintenance work on the main airstrip, or during common emergencies such as bird hits. “It is not feasible to shut down an airport that often,” said a Juhu airport official. The runway will also eat into the Juhu beach.
These problems were perhaps the reason why officials took the project off the prime minister’s list of fast-track infrastructure projects a couple of days ago.
“It was taken off after officials realised the gravity of the challenges,” said an AAI official.
The buildings around the aerodrome pose a major obstacle. “The structures will fall in the flight path, and operations would be unsafe unless their heights are corrected,” said another AAI official.
The extended runway will also take up approximately 400 metres of Juhu beach. “It is a popular beachfront. Getting environment clearance would be a major challenge,” said a source. Residents’ forums have already threatened to move the court against the project.
Juhu aerodrome’s director VK Punyal did not comment on the project’s challenges.
State government officials confirmed these issues were discussed in a meeting with AAI chief VP Agrawal 10 days ago. “We have asked them to plan the runway extension in a manner that it does not disturb the sanctity of the beach. A portion of the beach could be used for operational reasons, but public access should not be barred,” said state chief secretary Jayant Kumar Banthia. He added “safe co-ordination of traffic between Mumbai airport and Juhu” was another concern discussed with Agrawal.