With the emer­gence on the scene in Chen­nai of a pri­vate com­pany ac­quir­ing land for a green­field airport, fi­nally there is light at the end of the tun­nel!

SP's Airbuz - - Paris Airshow Preview - — B.K. PANDEY

AREPORT IN THE ME­DIA on June 10, 2017, in­di­cated that a pri­vate com­pany had ac­quired 2,500 acres (1,000 hectares) of land near Madu­ran­thagam, 75 km south­west of Chen­nai. The pri­vate com­pany is re­ported to be in talks with the Min­istry of Civil Avi­a­tion to con­struct the sec­ond in­ter­na­tional airport to serve the city of Chen­nai. This came as a wel­come news not only for the In­dian air­lines in­dus­try, but more so for the peo­ple of Chen­nai.

The ex­ist­ing Chen­nai In­ter­na­tional Airport is lo­cated at Meenam­bakkam, 15 km south-west of the down­town. With the city of Chen­nai ex­pand­ing well be­yond the airport, prac­ti­cally, there is very lit­tle scope for ex­pan­sion of airport in­fra­struc­ture. With the cur­rent pop­u­la­tion of Chen­nai at ten mil­lion and grow­ing, this is the fourth busiest airport in the coun­try in terms of to­tal pas­sen­ger traf­fic and is ranked after the in­ter­na­tional air­ports at Delhi, Mumbai and Ben­galuru. In Asia, it is ranked as the 49th busiest. In the last fi­nan­cial year, the airport han­dled 18.3 mil­lion pas­sen­gers as also more than 400 air­craft move­ments per day.

Apart from the ex­pan­sion of the ex­ist­ing airport though some­what lim­ited, as per the Vi­sion 2023 doc­u­ment of the Gov­ern­ment of Tamil Nadu, there has been a plan on the anvil for sev­eral years to build a new green­field in­ter­na­tional airport at Sripe­rum­budur to cater for the an­tic­i­pated growth in civil air traf­fic. The peak ca­pac­ity that can be achieved at the ex­ist­ing airport with the ex­pan­sion of in­fra­struc­ture that is pos­si­ble is lim­ited to 23 mil­lion.

A re­port pre­pared by the Ja­pan In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion Agency ( JICA) stated that a sec­ond airport in Chen­nai was ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary as the de­mand for pas­sen­ger traf­fic was ex­pected to sur­pass ca­pac­ity by the year 2021. A fea­si­bil­ity re­port was even pre­pared by the In­ter­na­tional Civil Avi­a­tion Or­gan­i­sa­tion (ICAO) and was sub­mit­ted to the Gov­ern­ment of Tamil Nadu. As per the ICAO re­port, the new in­ter­na­tional airport was en­vis­aged to be built on 4,823 acres (1,930 hectares) of land at Sripe­rum­budur in two phases. It would ul­ti­mately have four run­ways with two pas­sen­ger ter­mi­nals and at the end of the sec­ond phase, would have the ca­pac­ity of han­dling 40 mil­lion pas­sen­gers an­nu­ally. The Air- ports Au­thor­ity of In­dia has re­vised the re­quire­ment of land to around 2,000 acres (800 hectares).

In the per­cep­tion of the Min­istry of Civil Avi­a­tion, the Chen­nai airport would be one of the global hubs of In­dia along with the air­ports at Ben­galuru, Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata. Un­for­tu­nately, the project for the green­field airport at Chen­nai has re­mained merely on pa­per and an ex­er­cise in fu­til­ity. The ma­jor hur­dle ap­pears to have been the non-avail­abil­ity of the huge tracts of land that is needed for the project and the in­abil­ity on the part of the Gov­ern­ment of Tamil Nadu to ac­quire it. In a pro­posal for the sec­ond airport floated ear­lier on, the Gov­ern­ment of Tamil Nadu had iden­ti­fied nearly 4,500 acres (1,800 hectares) of land spread across 42 vil­lages in Tiru­val­lur and Kancheep­u­ram dis­tricts. But that pro­posal too died a nat­u­ral death.

There is lit­tle doubt that the four met­ros as also Ben­galuru and Hyderabad do re­quire a sec­ond in­ter­na­tional airport. After much dither­ing and de­lay, the gov­ern­ment ap­pears to have fi­nalised plans for build­ing the sec­ond in­ter­na­tional airport for the Na­tional Cap­i­tal Re­gion in Greater Noida where the gov­ern­ment has ac­quired 2,378 acres (950 hectares) of land for the project. To pro­vide re­lief for Mumbai airport, which was reach­ing traf­fic sat­u­ra­tion, plan for the sec­ond airport was con­ceived in 1997.

Two decades have gone by and de­spite all ap­provals in place, con­struc­tion is yet to be­gin. Ef­forts to build a sec­ond run­way at Ben­galuru and Hyderabad are likely to be af­fected by an agree­ment with the op­er­a­tors of the two fa­cil­i­ties that no other airport will be per­mit­ted within a ra­dius 150 km of the ex­ist­ing airport. The gov­ern­ment will have to ex­plore le­gal or even po­lit­i­cal op­tions to get over this im­ped­i­ment. Both these cities would re­quire a sec­ond in­ter­na­tional airport in not too dis­tant a fu­ture given the rate of growth of pas­sen­ger traf­fic in In­dia.

So far, the is­sue of lo­cat­ing and build­ing air­ports has been in the do­main of the Cen­tral and state gov­ern­ments with the lat­ter re­spon­si­ble for pro­vid­ing the vast tracts of land needed. With the emer­gence on the scene in Chen­nai of a pri­vate com­pany ac­quir­ing land for a green­field airport, fi­nally there is light at the end of the tun­nel!

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