Despite protests, the proposed extension of the Juhu airstrip on Juhu beach will be undertaken, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) has confirmed. The extension of the runway is aimed at better services for private operators at the Juhu aerodrome.
“The development of Juhu airport which includes extension of runway on the beach is still under consideration. Further, the necessary planning for developing the runway is also in process for which a team of consultants has been appointed by the AAI. The consultancy is likely to give their reports to us in another four-five months from now,” said M K Bimal, Juhu Airport Director.
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The phase-I of the project also includes night landing facilities for aircraft, augmentation of dispersal area, making a terminal building and development of an aviation museum. Among these, the airport has already received a green signal for allowing night landing for aircraft on the Juhu aerodrome premises.
Major beneficiaries of the project will include the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), which uses the Juhu airstrip to ferrry personnel to its offshore oil rigs at Bombay High. “We had been after the airport authorities to increase the timings of landing at the airport. Any delay in bringing back the aircraft was either making us pay huge amounts as penalty or base them at Santacruz airport. Allowing night landings has only relaxed the duties of our captains who can bring back the helicopters safely without having to rush,” an ONGC spokesperson said.
Commenting on how it will be beneficial to them, the spokesperson added, “The extension of runway will also increase our options with aircraft movement. From hovering in the air to wait till the traffic is cleared, our aircraft can now find an easy entry point and quicker landing options if extension of the runway gets cleared. We are waiting for the project to be approved soon.”
Sanjay Kumar, General Manager of Pawan Hans Pvt Ltd. which operates chopper services from the Juhu aerodrome, said, “The extension of runway calls for the development of civil aviation in itself. This will lead to more development and opportunities with increasing the capacity of the airport towards flying more aircraft from here. However, we will have to do a detailed study of the project before approving any major change.”
Pawan Hans is also another major private operator supplying carriers and facilitating flying services from Juhu airport.
However, activists have contended that the Juhu aerodrome’s expansion on the beach would be difficult owing to ownership of the land. “In the copy of the draft Development Plan, it is clearly mentioned that the beach is not a property owned by the AAI. We have also filed an RTI to confirm the same. The beach is the only open space left for residents around Juhu, and we fear the extension of runway will endanger the same,” said Godfrey Pimenta, an activist.
Opposing the claim, Bimal said, “The development plan of the airport is done in such a way that it will not interfere with the activities of either the residents or stall-owners at Juhu beach. They are completely in synergy with the beauty and delight of the beach.”
On June 5, activists had protested against the extension of runway and development of coastal project at Juhu airport as a mark to reserve their open space.