Mumbai: A high-powered committee of ministry of civil aviation and Maharashtra government on Tuesday is likely to pave the way for inviting global bids for building a new international airport in Navi Mumbai with its approval to the request for qualification (RFQ) document.
City and Industrial Development Corp. of Maharashtra Ltd (Cidco), the nodal agency for the project, will be able to float an international tender once the RFQ document is approved. The project is expected to cost around Rs 9,000 crore.
Seeking alternative: A file photo of Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai. The Navi Mumbai airport was conceived as the Chhatrapati Shivaji airport is likely to reach its peak capacity by 2013. By Hemant Mishra/Mint
“RFQ is a stand-alone document and has nothing to do with environmental clearance. We can float the tender and parallely work on securing necessary approvals,” T.C. Benjamin, Maharashtra’s principal secretary for urban development, said in an interview.
This greenfield airport, which is expected to become operational in 2014, is yet to get specific environmental clearances from the forest department and the Bombay high court.
The project is also facing opposition from local villagers who would be displaced.
The state government agencies are seeking clearances from the central government and the high court in a bid to avoid further delays and escalation of project cost.
The Navi Mumbai airport was conceived because the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, managed by the GVK group, in Mumbai is expected to reach its peak capacity of 40 million passengers a year by 2013.
On 19 August 2010, former civil aviation minister Praful Patel said the Navi Mumbai airport should have been operational by 2011 in view of the growing traffic and congestion at Mumbai airport. The government of India had accorded an “in-principal” approval for setting up the airport in 2007.
The Hyderabad-based GVK holds the first right of refusal for the development of the proposed airport at Navi Mumbai. If GVK’s bid falls short of the highest bid by 10% or less, it will have the right to revise its offer to match the top bid and operate the airport.
Debi Goenka, an environmental activist and managing trustee of the Conservation Act Trust, said Cidco cannot go ahead with the project as it has not secured necessary approvals.
“The project has not yet secured the forest clearance, though the authorities have moved a request to exempt them from forest clearance, which is very strange in nature,” Goenka said.
Any further delay is bound to escalate the project cost, Goenka said. “At present, I don’t think this airport will be technically or economically viable. Moreover, bidders will be wary about the environmental risks associated with the project,” he said.
The Navi Mumbai airport is proposed to be developed through public-private participation. Cidco and Airports Authority of India will hold 26% equity in the project and the rest will by held by the private developer.
The new airport will cater to 10 million passengers a year in its initial phase (end-2014), 25 million by 2020, 45 million by 2025, and 60 million by 2030, according to Cidco. It estimates steady growth in traffic at the new airport on account of special economic zones and industrial estates being developed in the region.
The site selected at Panvel has serious ecological problems, according to a recent report of the Observer Research Foundation, authored by aerospace journalist Hormuz P. Mama.
“Site preparation and airspace planning will also be problematic,” Mama wrote. “While its own 4,500 metre long runways will be spaced to permit simultaneous, independent operations, the airport’s ultimate capacity may be only about 50 million passengers a year. Thus, it could be saturated in about 25 years of operation.”
In contrast, most of the major Asian cities such as Hong Kong, Dubai, Singapore, Beijing, Seoul and Bangkok have very modern airports of a capacity of about 100 million passengers a year, Mama added.