NEW DELHI: The Indira Gandhi International Airport is operating on “borrowed time”, both on safety and security parameters. According to a petition filed in the Delhi High Court, the busiest airport of the country with over 1,100 flights operating daily is running on the basis of the obstruction survey that was carried out way back in 2007 and 2010.
Since then the situation in and around the airport has changed drastically. Hundreds of high-rises have come up in and around the airport complex. For instance, Aerocity comprising malls and hotels on the airport premises has also turned out to be the biggest safety as well as security threat, according to the petition.
The High Court has issued notices to all ministries and departments concerned seeking their immediate response. Mumbai-based advocate Yashwant Shenoy, who had blown the lid over the safety hazards around the Mumbai airport last year, has filed the PIL in the court of Delhi High Court Chief Justice Geeta Mittal. His petition in the Bombay High Court led to demolition order against 437 high-rises around the Mumbai airport.
Delhi has a foggy winter in addition to monsoon during which visibility becomes a serious issue for safe flying, particularly when the obstacle map of the airport is of the years 2007 and 2010. The air regulations mandate obstacle survey in every two years.
The petitioner accessed the website of Airport Authority of India and found that the obstacle map of Delhi is outdated. Delhi has three runways—obstacle survey for 10/28 runway was done in 2007 and for 9/27, it was conducted in March 2010. For the third runway 11/29—the longest runway in Asia with probably the world’s largest displaced threshold of almost 1.5 km caused by a large statue of Lord Shiva—the obstacle survey dates back to February 2010.
A petition in the Delhi High Court has claimed that the obstacles to the airport are also obstacles to Communication Navigation Surveillance. Radars and other instruments are critical when the systems in the aircraft fail.
“Even the Air Traffic Controllers Guild in its letter to AAI has warned repeat of the Charkhi Dadri crash of 1996. They want an immediate solution to the issue,” Shenoy told The Sunday Standard.
According to the Aircraft Act 1934, no building must come up within 20 km radius of an air- port without a no-objection certificate (NoC) from the airport authority.
Alleging corruption in giving away NoCs to buildings in the regulated zone, the petition has mentioned the name of a key AAI official who was given a ‘sensitive post’ in Delhi in spite of him being penalised during his posting in Gujarat for permitting illegal height to a building. “More than 30 high-rises on the approach path of Delhi airport have been given NoC by ignoring aviation safety rules,” Shenoy alleged.
While mentioning mushrooming of hotels in Aerocity, the petitioner stated that the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security, CISF and the Delhi Police have not taken airport security seriously.
They have been operating in spite of non-compliance with the conditions imposed on the buildings/hotels around the airport, said Shenoy, demanding a probe into the approval to Aerocity’s construction. “How can permissions be given to a hotel with runway at a stone’s throw distance? Permissions were given with conditions like bulletproof window glass,” Shenoy said.
Similar concerns were raised by a top AAI official about Mumbai airport in November last year in a report and recommended closure of runaway. “The encroachment of airspace by the buildings around the airports is cancer spreading across Indian airports, but it has brought aviation safety to critical limits in Mumbai,” the report said.