New Delhi: India’s environment ministry is considering the extreme step of revoking its approval for the expansion at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi if the dust levels around the ongoing construction at the facility, which the administration believes is high, are not controlled.
If the ministry decides to do so, it could be the first time in India that an infrastructure project of this importance will be halted on such grounds. The ministry’s expert committee on infrastructure development and miscellaneous projects raised this issue earlier this month in view of the “thick smoke of dust all around the road leading to the airport”.
“Yes, we have acted on that and the letter will be dispatched very soon,” said a ministry official who did not wish to be identified. The committee had earlier said if the consortium that is expanding the airport takes no action within 15 days of receiving the letter, the ministry should consider revoking the clearance.
Construction woes: A file photo of the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi. Dust generated by the construction activities has drawn the attention of a ministry committee. (Photo: Bloomberg)
However, the ministry’s move to rescind the clearance—mandatory for projects beyond a certain size and environmental impact—is likely to be strongly opposed by the companies involved in the project as well as the civil aviation ministry, which is scrambling to upgrade India’s airport infrastructure amid mounting criticism.
The Indira Gandhi International Airport project is being managed by Delhi International Airport Ltd, or DIAL, a consortium led by GMR Infrastructure Ltd, Fraport AG, Malaysia Airports (Niaga) Sdn Bhd, India Development Fund and state-owned Airports Authority of India. This expansion includes adding a new runway and terminal building, partly to meet traffic needs of the 2010 Commonwealth Games in the Capital. Nearly 60 million passengers would be able to use the airport after the expansion, up from the nearly 25 million who used it last year.
The ministry and Central Pollution Control Board have prescribed dust control standards that say suspended particulate matter, or SPM, should not exceed 600mg per cubic metre, and all units have to comply by providing dust containment and suppression systems and wind-breaking walls.
A senior civil aviation ministry official, who did not wish to be named, said the ministry is unaware of this issue. “The runway work is almost complete; it’s only the terminal that remains,” the official said.
“We are following all environment norms and procedures for construction. We have also deployed 40 water tankers, which go around the construction site all day sprinkling water (to contain the dust),” said a DIAL official, who declined being named.
The official added that DIAL is also monitoring the air quality at the construction site, besides turfing 1.7 million sq. m of area around the new runway with “good quality grass to avoid dust”.
The environment ministry has been considering modifications in environmental regulations, which excluded airport and port expansions from mandatory clearances, as reported by Mint on 7 March. The proposal, however, has not been finalized yet.