New Delhi: Concerned over the encroachment of airport land and the imminent threat it posed to aircraft movement, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has said it alone cannot act as a watchdog to such manmade obstacles.
DGCA director general Kanu Gohain said that other agencies involved in managing of airports would also have to chip in. The DGCA as a regulator, according to Gohain, should actually oversee issues concerning aviation sector. ''We cannot keep finding faults everywhere,'' he added, expressing his frustration over the issue.
Speaking to delegates of an international conference on Indian airports, Gohain said that strict regulation was needed to create free space around airports.
He said that with the aviation sector growing rapidly, ''we cannot act like inefficient bodies and let encroachments at airports continue.'' He demanded the adoption of tough measures if ''we want to have world class airports.''
In July 2003, the Rajya Sabha had approved the Airports Authority of India (Amendment) Bill, 2003, which sought to establish an airport appellate tribunal to deal with cases of encroachment at airports. AAI sources say that this bill was meant to check encroachment in and around airportsm but the bill has not been of much help.
Around 276 acres of land around Mumbai airport has currently been encroached upon. Of the total 400 airports in India, most of the land meant for airports have either been encroached or have high population density around the area.
AAI sources say that this results in a lack of space for the free movement of passengers, and what is worse, the inadequate and antiquated infrastructure causes ''traffic jams in the sky'', making planes circle over airports for several minutes before they can bee allotted a landing slot.
As an example, AAI officials say that prior to 2003, flights between Delhi and Mumbai used to take 95 minutes, but now that take at least two hours. They say that the endemic is applicable to almost every major airport in the country, leading to anywhere between five and 20 per cent increase in flight times, resulting in higher fuel consumption and maintenance costs.
Industry sources estimated that the aviation industry loses around Rs3.2 billion annually on account of flight delays caused by congestion.