Maharashtra CM to meet aviation minister Patel for Nagpur airport transfer

Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, who is also chairman of the Maharashtra Airport Development Company (MADC), is scheduled to meet civil aviation minister Praful Patel in Mumbai on Saturday 25 August to discuss the critical issue of handing over Nagpur airport to MADC for the proposed international cargo hub.

The issue of the handing over of the airport from the Airports Authority of India (AAI) to the joint venture company of the MADC and AAI has been hanging fire for the past six months. The aviation ministry has been procrastinating; it told the high court on 6 August that it would take at least six months to complete formalities like getting cabinet clearance, and only then would it consider handing over the airport.

MADC managing director R C Sinha said that on the same day, a relief package to be offered to those displaced by the project will be finalised by the committee headed by Maharashtra additional chief secretary Ramandand Tiwari. He was speaking to reporters on 21 August after reviewing progress on the ambitious multimodal air cargo hub (Mihan) and SEZ projects.

Sinha said real estate major DLF would start construction of its IT park on Wednesday. "I am very hopeful about the outcome of the meeting between the CM and Patel," he said, reiterating that the hub would generate 1.20 lakh direct jobs.

Countering the aviation ministry's view that airport transfer was being delayed as the MADC had failed to acquire required land in its vicinity, he dismissed all doubts about the timely completion of the project, saying that no such condition was imposed on Hyderabad and Bangalore airports before handing them over to private developers.

"Of the total 4,300 hectares, we have 2,177 hectares in our possession. All infrastructure development work is going on at a fast pace; 43 per cent of roads have been completed in the acquired land. The compound wall construction is nearing completion, while 20 per cent of the work on the railway over bridge and interchange has been accomplished," Sinha said.

The MADC has raised Rs425 crore from the sale of 1,300 acres of land to various private national and international companies. Till date, it has spent Rs430 crore on infrastructure development. The Rs240-crore water supply system is 85 per cent complete. Water will be drawn from Wadgaon dam, 35 km away from the site.

Work on power transmission and distribution through cables, as well as construction of the main central facility building, which will house offices of the SEZ development commissioner, has also begun. Bids for street lighting will be opened on 25 August. Lighting and horticulture work will be taken up after all roads are laid, Sinha told the media.