The civil aviation ministry has approved the setting up of a new airport at Jewar near Delhi, seven weeks after the Uttar Pradesh government sent in a proposal for the same. This is the fastest any major greenfield airport project has been cleared by the ministry.
Jewar, a two-hour drive east from Delhi, will see a spanking new international airport come up by 2010, civil aviation minister Praful Patel said on Friday, a day after his ministry approved a proposal to set up the Capital’s second airport. The project is called the Taj International Airport Hub by the Uttar Pradesh government.
The ministry is seeking the Union cabinet’s approval for the project by late September.
“We are committed to having it (the Greater Noida airport) through,” Patel said, confirming that a note on the airport project has been sent on Friday to different ministries for their views. “All metropolitan regions will certainly require more airports.” (Jewar falls under the Gautam Buddh Nagar district that includes Noida and Greater Noida on the eastern outskirts of New Delhi, leading to the new airport being dubbed the Greater Noida airport.)
The ministry has already cleared the decks for a second airport proposed in Navi Mumbai, designed to ease congestion at the country’s busiest airport in India’s financial capital. Patel said in June that the government was considering second airports at Chennai and Pune, too, following the examples of Bangalore and Hyderabad, both of which have new airports being readied for an early-2008 start.
The idea for the Jewar airport was first floated in 2001 by the Uttar Pradesh government.
It will require an acquisition of 1,500 hectares of land and an investment of Rs3,505 crore (excluding the cost of land) has been estimated for the project, split over several phases. The state government will select a private partner, who will lead construction and management of the proposed airport with a 74% equity stake, with the balance 26% equally split between airport regulator Airports Authority of India (AAI), under the civil aviation ministry, and Uttar Pradesh government-owned Taj Expressway Authority.
The private partner will be selected through a bidding process which will include multiple stages of seeking an expression of interest followed by pre-qualification and financial bids. The Jewar site first received a technical feasibility approval from the AAI in 2003. The project, however, did not move further with a change of government when an earlier Mayawati-led government fell in August the same year.
In May this year, when the current ministry was sworn in, the UP government asked the Centre to revive the Greater Noida airport proposal as traffic projections for the Indira Gandhi International Airport at New Delhi, being modernized, shot up when re-estimated after the aviation boom in recent years. A second airport was more viable now, it said in its report submitted to the civil aviation ministry.
AAI officials completed a feasibility study of the site, including aerial surveys, earlier this month to see if there were any changes on the ground. “It was all agricultural land that will need to be acquired. The site will remain the same,” a senior government official familiar with the process said, asking he not?be identified.
The Delhi airport is under private management by a GMR Ltd-led consortium since last year. The consortium, under terms of its 30-year lease, has a right of first refusal to build and run the airport at Jewar if its financial bid is within 10% of the highest quote (received from companies that want to build and manage this airport) and it agrees to match it.
The Taj International Airport Hub expects to handle 3.9 million passengers annually in 2011-12, or roughly one-fifth of the current traffic at the New Delhi airport, according to estimates by the state government. The proposal also seeks to derive a significant share of revenues through shopping malls, hotels, a cargo hub, an aviation academy and residential complexes as part of the airport project.
Land prices in Jewar, meanwhile, have shot up fourfold to about Rs80 lakh a hectare since before the May swearing-in of the Mayawati-led government in the state. “The buzz about the proposed airport is growing by the day,” said Ramesh Chand Sharma, officiating in-charge of the registrar’s office in Jewar. “Officials have been visiting the area and taking pictures. Local residents are awaiting the official notification of the areas to be acquired for the project.”
If the Union government approvals are granted by September, the Mayawati administration will have to acquire the land costing at least Rs1,200 crore at current prices.
(Ashish Sharma contributed to this story.)