Two months after it was referred to a group of ministers, the process for approving a second airport at Delhi’s outskirts in Uttar Pradesh’s Jewar is making some headway with the law ministry and civil aviation ministry preparing a framework to overcome the legal complications that could emerge as a consequence of such a permit.
A second airport within 150km of aerial distance from an existing one is not permitted under the old rules, but exceptions such as the Navi Mumbai airport outside Mumbai have been granted in the past over growing traffic.
The Jewar airport, which falls under the Gautam Buddh Nagar district that includes Noida and Greater Noida, lies east of capital Delhi, and will require 1,500ha of land and an investment of Rs3,505 crore (besides the cost of land). It will be developed through a private partner with a 74% stake, with the balance 26% equally split between airport regulator Airports Authority of India and the Uttar Pradesh government-owned Taj Expressway Authority.
A view of the domestic airport at Delhi. An analyst says the concession agreement with DIAL does not restrict the government legally from having a second airport within 150km
But as the Union government has already signed a 30-year lease agreement with a GMR Infrastructure Ltd-led consortium for upgrading New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport, a group of ministers that includes finance minister P. Chidambaram, law minister H.R. Bharadwaj, and science and technology minister Kapil Sibal, besides aviation minister Praful Patel, has been asked to deliberate on the legal implications of such a move.
The aviation and law ministries together will identify all the clauses that will be impacted under the existing concession agreement as a result of permitting the second airport and then suggest possible solutions for each of them, a senior civil aviation official who did not want to be identified said. “It should be ready by middle of next month,” said the official referring to the legal framework that will then be discussed by the ministerial group before being placed before the cabinet. The group have met just once since it was formed early this year.
Delhi International Airport Ltd or DIAL, the GMR-led consortium, has raised several objections to the Jewar proposal, which could receive incentives from the Uttar Pradesh government as it woos air traffic there. DIAL is not, for instance, allowed to develop more than 5% of the land for commercial use, but that yardstick could be different for the new airport. Such a permission, DIAL believes, could help the airport operator in Greater Noida subsidize landing and other charges levied on airlines and attract airlines there instead of the Capital’s airport.
An analyst at the New Delhi office of an international consulting firm, who asked not to be named, said the concession agreement with DIAL does not restrict the government legally from having a second airport within 150km. All the agreement mandates, he said, is that DIAL be assured a first right of refusal to build the new airport under certain conditions. The state government has already agreed to follow that rule.