MUMBAI: The Navi Mumbai International Airport, touted as India’s first greenfield international airport, is unlikely to meet its December 2019 deadline owing to administrative delays. The project, originally conceived in 1997, is already behind schedule by more than a decade owing to lack of environmental clearances and political will. CM Devendra Fadnavis has, on several occasions, said that the first flight from the airport will take off in December 2019.
It is now clear that the agencies under him will fail to meet the deadline. Civil aviation secretary RN Chaube admitted it would be “tough to meet the 2019 deadline”. The City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO)was supposed to clear 10 villages by May 31. It was supposed to hand over the land to GVK, which was expected to develop one of the two 3.7-km-long runways and the 2.5-lakh-square-metre terminal building. However, the corporation is unlikely to meet the deadline.
The project requires filling up 824 hectares of the 1,160-hectare area to a height of eight metres. While CIDCO is supposed to fill up to 5.5 metres, 2.5 metres of filling is supposed to be done by GVK while developing the runways, terminal building and other infrastructure for the first phase of the project.
According to superintending engineer SS Dahedar, almost 50 per cent of the filling work to be done by CIDCO is complete. “We have deployed 600 dumpers, 170 earth movers and requisite numbers of dozers, riders, wagon drills and other equipment. We are sure that our part will be completed by December.”
Levelling of the hill requires high-intensity blasting, which the agencies cannot do due to the villages. The people there are to be relocated to Pushpaknagar near Panvel before May 31. The project-affected persons (PAP) were promised developed plots, cash compensation and other benefits. But many of them are yet to receive the benefits and haven’t moved out yet.
Only three villages have been vacated so far. The administration would need at least a couple of months more for getting the remaining villages vacated, sources from CIDCO said.“The administration needs to be forthcoming to address the concerns of the people. Though larger issues concerning all the affected persons have been addressed, small issues concerning individual families have not been resolved. That is the reason why people are reluctant to move,” said RC Gharat, advisor to the PAP association.
Last month, CIDCO took disciplinary action against 40-odd security staff recruited from among the PAPs as part of the compensation package. The reason was that they had refused to vacate their houses in the villages. Gharat said that the PAP association had demanded that these members of the security staff be made permanent employees of CIDCO. “Instead they kept them as part of the contractual workforce, which derailed the talks and delayed the process,” he said.The CIDCO is also yet to finalize the detailed plan for the airport, without which GVK cannot start construction work.