The Maharashtra government’s target of seeing the first aircraft fly out of the Navi Mumbai international airport by 2019 seems to be slipping further away. The state government is yet to approve and finalise the validity of the winning bid for construction of the airport, put in by the GVK-led Mumbai International Airport (MIAL). The validity of the bid expired on August 13 — 180 days from the date of opening the bids which was on February 13, 2017.
A City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) — the nodal authority for the project —official told FE that the validity of the bid of MIAL will be extended for another 180 days. “We will issue a letter to MIAL, informing them of the extension even as we wait for the approval of the Project Management and Implementation Committee (PMIC) and subsequently, the state cabinet,” the official said.
Only once the state government approves and finalises the bid, a letter of award is given to the winning party which can then form a special purpose vehicle, go for financial closure and execute the project.
The reason for extending the bid’s validity could be that CIDCO is yet to shift villagers off the core airport land area, without which work on the project cannot be started. CIDCO officials told FE that they are now resigned to the fact the construction could take at least six years, if not more.
Earlier, civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju had told FE that the construction of the airport would take eight-nine years.
The CIDCO official added that the monsoon has further delayed things. “We are not insisting that the villagers shift now because it will be difficult for them to do so during the rains. We expect they will take up the rental scheme we have offered them once the Ganesh festival is over after the first week of September,” the official said.
Until such time that the rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) sites are ready for the villagers to permanently move into — CIDCO, in an effort to expedite things — proposed an alternate solution in 2016, requesting the 3,500 villagers occupying the airport area, to move to rented accommodations, which it offered to pay for.
It offered Rs 1,000 per square foot for three times the roof area of the villagers’ existing homes for a period of 18 months, starting July 2016. There were no takers at that time and the date was postponed to January 2017. With eight months already gone since then, CIDCO has not received the response it was hoping for. It will now keep the date flexible and the 18 months would come into effect from the day the families do decide to shift, on a case-by-case basis.