Work begins on Mumbai's second airport

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday laid the foundation stone for the second airport in the twin city, which will relieve the choked Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Airport in the island city.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi being greeted by Maharshtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis as governor C Vidyasagar Rao looks on  

Modi laid the foundation stone for the first phase of the Rs16,700-crore Navi Mumbai international airport, about 21 years after the idea was first mooted.

The first phase of the project is expected to be operational by 2020 and the developer, GVK Power & Infrastructure (GVK), which is also the operator of Mumbai International Airport, has been given a stiff deadline of December 2019 for completion of the first phase.

The Navi Mumbai International Airport project is being implemented by the City Industrial Development Corporation (Cidco), the nodal agency of Maharashtra government.

The GVK Group will have 74 per cent interest in the project with Cidco and the Airports Authority of India holding the remaining 26 per cent stake.

"While the aviation sector is growing fast (clipping at 20 per cent for the past many months), aviation infrastructure is lagging behind this. Our endeavour is to increase the speed of work," Modi said after performing the ground-breaking ceremony for the airport.

Modi said the Navi Mumbai airport is one of the many projects worth over Rs10,00,000 crore, which were stuck and his government has provided funds and it is now progressing. "I believe the airport will be operational on time," he said without putting a timelime to it.

Although Cidco has been claiming that the first phase with 10 million passenger capacity would be ready by 2019, aviation ministry expects the project to take at least five years for completion.

The new airport will have two parallel runways, and will handle close to 80 flights an hour. It is expected to significantly ease the load of the congested Mumbai airport, which handles over 900 flights a day (the peak was 980 flights in mid-January), and is known as the world's busiest single-runway facility, accounting for almost over 25 per cent of the entire air traffic in the country.

The Rs16,700-crore Navi Mumbai airport was planned way back in 1997 as a second airport to meet the growing needs of Mumbai at an investment of Rs3,000 crore. The project was inordinately delayed due to myriad factors, including political indecision, issues of environmental clearances and funding.

The project requires over 2,268 hectares of land, of which nearly 1,160 hectares will be used for aeronautical purposes. Ten villages in Navi Mumbai have been impacted by the proposed airport. Cidco has so far rehabilitated nearly 400 of the 3,500 affected families, offering each family alternative plots, monetary compensation, construction aid, rent allowances and additional amenities in Pushpak Nagar.