Air disconnect may mar Vizags aspirations

Hyderabad | Updated: Oct 31 2005, 07:07am hrs
For a city thats being touted ad infinitum by the Andhra Pradesh government as the second international city after Hyderabad, Visakhapatnam or Vizag suffers from one major weakness the C factor, or connectivity.

While Vizag boasts of becoming the first among tier II cities, its airlink is pathetic. For a city of its size, aiming to place itself on the international map, its airport was closed for full 15 days in mid-October! To top it, this was the second time the airport has been closed the first being a couple of months ago when heavy rains inundated it. Moreover, the airport also lacks night landing facilities, adding to its limitations. Can a city with such aspirations afford this

Unfortunately, the airport is part of the Naval Base of the eastern naval command (called INS Dega). The runway and the air traffic control (ATC) are under navycontrol. We maintain the terminal buildings, says HS Suresh, general manager (projects), Airports Authority of India.

Ironically, what caused the closure for such a long time was the opening of the nearby Meghadrigedda reservoir floodgates, which resulted in flooding the airport building and runway. The situation was exacerbated by incessant rains.

Till now, no concrete measures have been taken to prevent the situation. If this is the situation every time it rains, then I doubt if big investments will come into Vizag, says the CEO of a healthcare BPO.

Also peeved with the situation is Visakha Air Travellers Association, which has urged the state government to complete flood control measures at the airport expeditiously to enable full-fledged and continuous operations throughout the year.

Though a bit late, the state government has finally woken up. While chief minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy is optimistic in wanting an international airport, the reality seems different.

First, the current airport needs to be fixed. The government now seems to be in damage control mode. Last week, at a high-level meeting, Dr Reddy directed officials to widen the channels of Meghadrigadda and Kondagadda reservoirs, which caused the flooding, as also redesign the system to ensure that water is discharged directly into the sea.

The cost Rs 60 crore, which will borne by the Visakahpatnam Urban Development Authority and the municipal corporation. However, for starters, the irrigation departments estimated Rs 28.46 crore plan for flood control measures needs to be implemented, if flights are to take off smoothly and business is to flow in.