The Airports Authority of India (AAI) has informed the Gujarat government it has chosen the Sabarmati Riverfront here and the Tapi Riverfront in Surat to start seaplane operations in the state, said officials. A high-level team, comprising officials from the AAI, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and a private airliner, would visit these locations in coming days as part of preparations for the project, said Gujarat Chief Secretary J N Singh. The announcement came hours after the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) claimed there is no proposal as yet to start seaplane services from the Sabarmati Riverfront. In December last, Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew in a seaplane from the Sabarmati river here to Dharoi Dam in Mehsana district on the last day of campaigning for the Gujarat assembly polls.
Modi’s widely publicised ride generated a lot of talk about this mode of air transportation. Citing a letter sent by AAI chairman Guruprasad Mohapatra, Singh said the seaplane project is very much on the cards. “Just today, I received a letter from Mohapatra, informing us that the AAI has planned to set up water aerodromes in India for seaplane service. “The AAI had selected Sabarmati and Tapi riverfronts for starting the service in Gujarat,” Singh told PTI. Citing the letter, Singh said the AAI has shortlisted three routes from where the seaplane service can be started after conducting a pre-feasibility study. These routes are – Sabarmati Riverfront to Dharoi Dam connecting Ambaji (a temple town in Banaskantha district), Sabarmati Riverfront to the Statue of Unity near Narmada dam (in Narmada district) and Tapi Riverfront in Surat to the Statue of Unity.
“A team will visit these locations between June 18 and June 20 to take a first hand information. We have appointed Director of Civil Aviation, Gujarat, as the nodal officer to coordinate the visit. We have also told the AMC commissioner to stay prepared for the visit,” said the top bureaucrat. “The seaplane service is very much on the cards and that is the reason the AAI is sending a team. Since AMC officials were not aware about it, they might have said there is no proposal to start such a service,” he clarified. Earlier in the day, the opposition Congress sought to know from officials of the BJP-ruled AMC whether it has any plans to start seaplane service from the Sabarmati Riverfront.
The issue was raised by Leader of Opposition in the AMC, Dinesh Sharma, during a board meeting of the AMC-controlled Sabarmati Riverfront Development Corporation Ltd (SRFDCL). Talking to reporters after the board meeting, Sharma said AMC officials as well as the company directors informed him that there are no such plans. “Ahead of the Gujarat polls, the PM flew in a seaplane from here and made everyone believe that such a service will become reality one day. But, when I sought details today (about any such proposal), officials told me they are unaware about any such plans,” said Sharma.
When asked by reporters about the project, Mayor Gautam Shah said there was no plan as of now – either by the AMC or SRFDCL – to start such a service. “A (feasibility) survey about the seaplane service is being done by the AAI and other agencies. But, the AMC or SRFDCL has not received any proposal to start this service. Thus, we did not discuss this issue in today’s board meeting of SRFDCL,” Shah told reporters earlier.