AG grounds second Delhi airport

Written by Shauvik Ghosh | Deepa Jainani | Lucknow, New Delhi, Aug 27 | Updated: Aug 28 2008, 07:20am hrs
The countrys highest law officer, the attorney general of India, has told the Centre that setting up a greenfield airport in Greater Noida on the outskirts of New Delhi would clearly violate the agreement signed between the GMR group-led consortium upgrading the Capitals Indira Gandhi International Airport and the ministry of civil aviation.

This means that the proposed Rs 5,000-crore Taj International Aviation Hub at Jewar in Greater Noidafirst conceptualised in 2001 by UP chief minister Mayawatis previous administrationis unlikely to come up now. The verdict also grounds Haryanas first proposed airport at Jhajjar. Both airports would lie within 150 km of Delhi airport, violating the developer-ministry concession agreement.

In February, a group of ministers had given the Greater Noida airport in-principle approval, while also creating another group to look into the legal issues. The second GoM had asked the law ministry to examine the matter, which, in turn, sought the attorney generals views.

With the attorney general agreeing with the law ministrys view that the Greater Noida airport would violate the concession agreement, the Mayawati government has few options left to see the project though. It was one of the chief ministers pet projects and a key element in the development of western UP as an industrial hub.

According to a source, the state government is contemplating legal recourse to counter the attorney generals opinion. From our side, the case is still wide open, as the civil aviation ministry has already cleared the techno-feasibility of the project. The only reason that the project seems to have been grounded temporarily is because of the fast-changing political equations between the Mayawati government in the state and the Congress at the Centre, said a source familiar with the developments.

The chief ministers principal secretary, VN Garg, told FE that the state government was yet to receive official intimation from the Centre. Only when we get an official communiqu can we decide on our next move, he stated.

The demand for a second airport near Delhi is based on civil aviation ministry traffic projections that despite modernisation, the Delhi airport would be able to handle only 40 million passengers by 2012, whereas demand would be much higher. The proposed Greater Noida airport was expected to handle around 3.9 million passengers annually by 2011-12, helping to ease congestion at Delhi airport.