Kolkata to see AAIs first mega airport

Written by Economy Bureau | New Delhi, May 30 | Updated: May 31 2008, 06:00am hrs
Putting an end to political bickering over the modernisation of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata, the government has decided that state-run airport developer Airports Authority of India (AAI) will undertake the Rs 2,000-crore project.

This will be first big airport revamp that AAI will undertake, as the contracts for Delhi and Mumbai airports were given to private sector developers. AAI is in line to pick up modernisation of the Chennai airport, the last of the four mega-airport projects in the country.

The Public Investment Board (PIB), comprising the secretaries of finance and civil aviation ministries among others, approved the modernisation plan of Kolkata airport on Friday. The plan will now travel to the Cabinet committee on economic affairs for its nod, which is expected to come through soon. The project was also discussed at a meeting between West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday. The airport modernisation is a shot in the arm for the state government, which suffered a setback on industrial development after the Salim SEZ at Nandigram was scrapped.

A statement from the ministry of civil aviation said work is expected to begin in two months. PIBs decision is a culmination of a process that was started in April 2007 when the government decided that the Kolkata airport would be brought to international standards by AAI.

In August 2007, AAI submitted the proposal for PIB approval after which, in October 2007, an inter-ministerial group cleared the proposal. In December 2007, the Planning Commission gave in-principle approval to the modernisation plan of the airport and the ministry of environment gave its approval to the project in March 2008.

Meanwhile, AAI has already prepared a detailed estimate and tender documents. According to the AAI timetable, the date for opening of tenders is May 30 and the date for commencement of construction is June 16. AAI also conducted a global architectural design competition for the Kolkata airport terminals.

Civil aviation minister Praful Patel had recently blamed the Planning Commission for delaying the projects at the two major metros. The plan panel also came in for stinging criticism from the parliamentary standing committee, headed by Sitaram Yechury, which shot off a letter to the PM alleging that certain arms of his government were deliberately delaying the process in order to privatise the modernisation of airports through the backdoor.