Mumbai: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday flagged off the construction of Mumbai’s second airport to be built at Rs16,700 crore—more than five times the cost estimated when it was first proposed in 1998.

Laying the foundation stone for the Navi Mumbai International Airport, Modi said aviation sector across the world is moving very fast and India cannot lag behind. “We want people wearing ‘hawai-chappal’ to be able to fly in a ‘hawai-jahaz," (aeroplane) Modi said.

The Prime Minister also inaugurated the country’s largest container terminal at Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), built at a cost of Rs4,719 crore.

The airport project has missed several deadlines due to land acquisition and environment issues. The airport is expected to ease flight operations at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, which handles over 900 flights a day. The airport has the world’s busiest single-runway facility, accounting for almost over 25% of the entire air traffic in the country.

City and Industrial Development Corporation (Cidco), a state government body currently carrying out pre-development work for the upcoming Navi Mumbai international airport, will hand over the land parcel to GVK Group, the successful bidders for the airport project, in the next six to eight months, Cidco vice-chairman and managing director Bhushan Gagarani said on Sunday.

Most of the land acquisition has been completed, Gagarani told reporters on the sidelines of the airport’s bhoomi poojan ceremony, adding some land parcels, which have been held up by some “technical issues" are expected to be completed soon. “About 25% of cutting, blasting and filling work has been completed," Gagarani said adding, “We should be able to hand over the land parcel to GVK in another six to eight months, preferably after the monsoon."

Gagarani said that when land is handed over to GVK, a committee under the state’s chief secretary will monitor the development process of the airport.

“We are confident that we will have a terminal and a runway in place at Navi Mumbai airport by December 2019," he added. On Sunday, Modi said India needs to develop top quality infrastructure to keep up with globalization.

“Aviation infrastructure is not growing at the rate at which the aviation sector is growing (in India)," Modi said, adding the current government, whose focus has been development, has restarted several stalled projects worth over Rs10,000 crore.

“The issue of Navi Mumbai airport has been pending for years. And, this is not the only project that is pending. When I assumed office, I realised there were several such projects. That is why, we began a Pragati initiative and gave priority to completion of projects," Modi said.

He added that if India were to keep pace with the world, it would have to increase its trade multifold from the current levels. “Today, around 450 airplanes are currently operational in India, including government and private ones. Within the last year, orders for 900 new airplanes were placed," he said.

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