Flooding at Delhi airport's T3 terminal has almost become an annual feature during the monsoon. On June 16, rainwater entered the domestic arrival area, prompting air passengers to wonder whether it was a seaport. Shalini Narayan and Ruhi Bhasin find out why T3 gets flooded.
The Indira Gandhi International Airport, one of the largest airports in South Asia, saw major flooding on June 16 following heavy rains, which affected the use of X-ray machines, lifts and conveyor belts. While the airport operator claimed flight operations remained “more or less” normal, the flooding was attributed to “choked drains” around the Delhi airport's T3 terminal.
The incident has raised questions on the lack of preparedness on the part of airport operator Delhi International Airport Ltd (DIAL) and government agencies, including the Public Works Department (PWD) and the Delhi Jal Board (DJB), and brought to the fore the lack of proper drainage facilities in and around the airport. DIAL and the agencies are now engaged in a blame game with the airport operator blaming the peripheral drainage system maintained by the agencies and the latter blaming the internal drainage system maintained by DIAL.
The day after IGI Airport’s Terminal T3 was inundated following heavy showers, the government called an emergency meeting. Chief secretary D M Spolia asked PWD and DIAL to undertake a joint inspection of the area and ensure storm-water from nearby areas was diverted to dedicated drains.
DIAL maintains the solution lay in upgrading urban infrastructure. “We need to have a proper flood model for the entire city to prevent such instances,” a DIAL official said.
PWD says the airport should have been built at a higher elevation at the time of construction. “The problem is not with the peripheral drains but with the fact that the airport is located in a low-lying area, which will receive run-off water during the rains. If the internal drainage system of the airport was adequate, it would have been able to deal with the added pressure of heavy rains,” a PWD official said.
PWD Minister Raj Kumar Chauhan reiterated that the flooding inside the airport was due to issues with its “internal” drains.
In its defence, a DIAL spokesperson said, “At the time of its inception, the then Palam air base did not suffer from a large height differential from its surrounding areas, including the nearby highway (now NH-8). As a result, the run-off water was manageable. However, due to