Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s ambitious project — Taj International Airport — has run into a roadblock with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) raising objections to the proposed site at Firozabad’s Tundla tehsil, which it says is in proximity to its proposed radar station at Swar area in Agra.
The objection comes as a huge setback to the state government given that the site was zeroed in after deliberations that lasted months and a survey by a private consultant firm.
The state government has now decided to present its case in a meeting with the Defence Ministry officials and is seeking a date after January 15. Experts and the private consultant are busy analysing the objections and preparing for a presentation to be made before the ministry in favour of the proposed site.
According to the guidelines, no aircraft can fly below 19,000 feet while flying over a radar station.
“We are analysing the objections raised by the Union Ministry of Defence. Firstly, the proposed radar station in Agra’s Swar area is only on paper, as the ministry has sought land for the station from the state government,” said Sanjiv Saran, Secretary, UP Tourism Department, which is the nodal agency for the airport project.
“Our plea is that since the selection of the site had been so difficult, the state government can provide them the required land elsewhere in the vicinity, which would not obstruct the air traffic,” added Saran.
Another objection raised by the MoD is that the proposed airport site is barely 25-30 km from the existing airforce station in Kheria area of Agra district.
A senior officer said, “The proposed site is parallel to the existing airstrip of defence in Agra, which would mean that the air-funnel of both the airstrip would converge only at a distance of 180 km. With unified air traffic controller, we can have dropping zones in different directions.”
Sources said proximity to the Gwalior Airforce station in Madhya Pradesh is also mentioned in the MoD letter.
Among the many reasons why the state government is pushing for the proposed site is the fact that out of the estimated 3,700 acres required for the project, about 1,200 acres is already available in the form of “degraded forest land” with another 500 acres being government-owned.
Further, the site is also quite far from the Taj Trapezium Zone, Mathura Refinery of Indian Oil Corporation, Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary in Rajasthan – as proximity to any of these could have created hurdles. The project cannot be moved towards Greater Noida as it has to maintain a distance of 150 km from the Indira Gandhi International Airport.