The Union Civil Aviation Ministry has granted in-principle approval to the Uttar Pradesh government for setting up a new international airport at Jewar in Greater Noida, clearing a proposal that had been stuck for over 15 years. Announcing the Centre’s clearance to the Noida International Airport in Jewar, Union Minister of Civil Aviation Ashok Gajapathi Raju on Saturday said the new airport was expected to become operational in the next five years.
The minister said the Yamuna Expressway Industrial Development Authority (YEIDA) had notified 3,000 hectares for the project. The airport, with capacity to handle nearly 30-50 million passengers annually over the next 10-15 years, would involve an estimated investment of Rs 20,000 crore and, Raju said.
The proposed airport at Jewar had been one of the most contested and sought-after projects for previous governments, including of the BSP and Samajwadi Party.
Officials in state government said the project was first conceived during the Rajnath Singh-led BJP government in 2001, but was taken up in 2002 by the Mayawati-led BSP government. The project even got a “green signal” from Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, but when Mulayam Singh Yadav took charge as CM in 2003, he shelved it.
When Mayawati came back in 2007, the government revived the Jewar project and, in 2010, sent a delegation of party MPs to meet prime minister Manmohan Singh and then civil aviation minister Praful Patel. Singh had even formed a group of ministers to look into the project, but the initiative remained inconclusive.
The issue raised then was that the airport fell within a 150-km radius of the Indira Gandhi International Airport, thus contradicting an agreement signed with the GMR-led consortium that manages Delhi International Airport Private Limited. The proposed Noida International Airport at Jewar will be located 72 km from IGI airport and 65 Km from Hindon Air Force station in Ghaziabad.
In 2011, when RLD chief Ajit Singh became civil aviation minister, he, according to sources, wanted the airport to be constructed in Meerut. The BSP government, however, continued to push for Jewar.
In 2012, the SP government came to power and initiated a fresh proposal for a ‘Taj International Airport’ in Agra instead. However, when the defence ministry opposed the move as the Air Force had an airbase in Kheria area, near where the airport was proposed to come up, the state government wrote to the Centre, proposing that the location be shifted to Firozabad or Mulayam’s village of Saifai.
It was during the last phase of his government that Akhilesh expressed his willingness for two international airports – one in Jewar and the other in Agra. However, with the SP government and the NDA government at Centre failing to see eye to eye, the project never took off.
“The project was stuck on the issue of selection of site because of political reasons. The Yogi Adityanath government talked to the Prime Minister and after that, the Union Civil Aviation ministry contacted us,” state Cabinet minister Siddharth Nath Singh said on Saturday.
Adityanath had called for a meeting with the Infrastructure Department on April 6, a fortnight after taking charge as CM, and directed the officers to consider Jewar for the airport project..
In New Delhi, while announcing the approval, Civil Aviation Secretary Rajiv Nayan Choubey said the project would be implemented in the PPP (public private partnership) mode. The government is also considering plans for three other greenfield airports at Chennai, Pune and Andhra Pradesh.
As per the union aviation ministry’s estimates, with the Delhi international airport reaching “saturation” in the next seven years, the National Capital Region will require a new airport. “Traffic at the Delhi International Airport is expected to grow from the current level of 62 million passengers per annum to up to 91 MPPA by 2020 and 109 MPPA by 2024, which would be the saturation point… So Delhi will require a second airport in the next 7-10 years,” the ministry said.