Rough flight ahead for Navi Mumbai airport construction

The site where the Navi Mumbai International Airport will come up
More than 20 years after it was conceived, the race to build Navi Mumbai airport is not going to be easy.

If the bidding conditions are adhered to, the first phase of the project would require an investment of Rs 11,000 crore (for a 10-million-per-annum capacity) and needs to be completed in three and a half years of the date the unencumbered land becomes available to GVK group-led Mumbai International Airport Ltd, the company recommended for building the greenfield airport.

The Cabinet is expected to meet by the end of this month to give the go ahead to the much-delayed project.

When the first phase of the airport will be completed depends on when CIDCO makes available unencumbered land to the airport developer, and therein lies a big problem. Experts say that this could take two years, pushing back the date of the opening of the airport even further.

Many fear that the project cost determined last year might have escalated by 5 per cent per annum. 

CIDCO is the joint venture partner for the airport in Mumbai International Airport Ltd (MIAL), in which it will have a 26 per cent stake. 

 

The agency has decided to invest Rs 3,400 crore and taken the responsibility to ensure that the land and the terrain of the site are prepared and ready for constructing the airport. 

As far as CIDCO is concerned, 26 per cent of the money it is spending on preparing the land will be adjusted as equity in the proposed special purpose vehicle, and the remaining portion is being extended as a long-term loan to the joint venture with a moratorium of 10 years.

But CIDCO faces many challenges. It has to flatten a 92-metre hill to eight metres, divert two rivers, remove two transmission lines passing through the site, and undertake a landfill of up to 8 metres on a land mass of 1,160 hectares (one hectare=10,000 square metres) which will support the runaway and the terminal.

It will also have to double the high-flood level so that the airport is not impacted by heavy rain or flood. More politically sensitive, it has to rehabilitate about 3,000 families whose villages are part of this site.

While work on these fronts has started and a rehabilitation package is in place, the speed has been very slow, delayed again by monsoons. Analysts say that not more than 30 per cent of the work has been done. Also many villagers are protesting against the rehabilitation scheme and the government has failed in meeting its various deadlines in shifting them to other areas.

When completed, the airport will have a capacity of 60 million passengers per annum and MIAL will have invested between Rs 16,000 crore and Rs 17,000 crore.


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