2nd NCR airport: Aviation Ministry nod came without state govt’s clearance

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New Delhi | Updated: July 3, 2015 8:26:33 AM

The airport in Jewar was proposed by the erstwhile Mayawati-led government in Uttar Pradesh and the UPA government.

delhi airportThe airport in Jewar was proposed by the erstwhile Mayawati-led government in Uttar Pradesh and the UPA government. (Reuters)

The ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) approved a proposal for developing a second airport in the national capital region (NCR) last Thursday without requisite approvals from the state government for the project.

Aviation ministry sources informed that while discussions have taken place with the state government for an airport in Uttar Pradesh, the UP government is keen that it comes up at Hirangaon in Firozabad district. Hirangaon is located at a distance of 238.9 km from the IGI Airport.

“No word or approval has come from the state government regarding the airport in Jewar. After the Akhilesh Yadav-government came to power in the state, they have been looking at Firozabad for the project”, said a senior official who did not wish to be named.

Minister of State (MoS) for Civil Aviation Mahesh Sharma last week said that over 2,200 acres of land for a second airport has been acquired at Jewar and that the GMR Group, which operates the Indira Gandhi International Airport, would be preferred for developing the project. The proposal would soon be sent to the Cabinet for approval.

Shortly after approving the proposal Sharma said, “With the population of NCR covering Delhi, Gurgaon, Faridabad and Meerut in western Uttar Pradesh using only one airport, there is an urgent need for a second airport. And Jewar is the only place where land is available. Our first choice is Jewar.”

The airport in Jewar was proposed by the erstwhile Mayawati-led government in Uttar Pradesh and the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government had formed a group of ministers (GoM) to decide on the issue.

Industry insiders, however, say there is ample room for expansion at IGI itself. The airport has the capacity to handle 62.5 million passengers per annum against traffic of 40.9 million in 2014-15. The airport has capacity to handle 1.5 million tonne of cargo against traffic of 0.7 million tonne registered last fiscal. A fourth terminal and runway can take traffic-handling capacity further to 100 million per annum.

Even the Airports Authority of India (a stakeholder in DIAL) has directed Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL) to defer expansion plans by four years to 2021 at IGI owing to losses and underutilisation of the existing capacity. A senior official at AAI said, “There is excess capacity at the Delhi airport. We have asked them to defer expansion plans for building a fourth runway and terminal as the existing asset is not being utilised optimally. This is leading to increased depreciation costs and higher losses. We have asked them to defer the expansion plan to 2021 from earlier scheduled 2017.”

Amber Dubey, head of aerospace and defence at global consultancy KPMG said: “Airports are a costly investment. That’s the reason why hub airports are built for a capacity of 80-100 million and then connected to the hinterland by way of mass rapid transportation systems via road, rail and waterways. NCR may need three or more airports like London or New York some day, but that is several years away. Delhi Airport with around 40 million passenger traffic is far away from its projected saturation capacity of 100 million passengers. Two airports in the NCR for a combined market of around 50-55 million passengers and about 1-1.5 million tonnes of cargo will raise the airport tariff per passenger and per tonne of cargo. It will be problematic for airlines, cargo and other industry stakeholders to duplicate staff at two airports for such a small demand base. For better domestic and international flight connections, passengers from Jewar’s hinterland may still have to still take the long road to IGIA.”

Existing policy guidelines do not support the development of a second airport at Jewar. The ‘policy on airport infrastructure of India’ says the government will approve the establishment of greenfield airports in places where an existing one is unable to meet the projected requirements of traffic or in case a “new focal point of traffic emerges with sufficient viability”. This could either be as a replacement for an existing airport, or for simultaneous operations.

The current policy states, “No greenfield airport will normally be allowed within an aerial distance of 150 km of an existing airport. Where it is allowed as a second airport in the same city or close vicinity, the parameters for distribution of traffic between the two airports will be clearly spelt out.”

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