Airport won’t miss its 2019 deadline: Lokesh Chandrahttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/mumbai/airport-wont-miss-its-2019-deadline-lokesh-chandra-5303540/

Airport won’t miss its 2019 deadline: Lokesh Chandra

As Vice Chairman and Managing Director of the City Industrial and Development Corporation (CIDCO), Lokesh Chandra is overseeing work on the ambitious Navi Mumbai International Airport and several associated infrastructure projects. In an interview to The Indian Express, he says he is confident the airport will not miss its 2019 deadline.

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Lokesh Chandra. (Express photo by Ganesh Shirsekar)

The state government is confident of starting flight operations from Navi Mumbai International Airport (NMIA) by the end of 2019. However, the Ministry of Civil Aviation and aviation experts have raised doubts about this. Your comments.

After signing the concessionaire agreement, we were required to sign the novation agreement with the private player, the GVK Group of Industries, which is building the airport, within six months. We were able to complete the process in time and they also achieved financial closure. Now, the concessionaire is already monitoring the construction work. This is our major achievement, which builds our confidence of being able to meet the deadline. We are progressing well on the shifting of project-affected people and we have tried to resolve their issues. Unfortunately, due to heavy rains, there was not much progress with their shifting in July. Once the rains are over, there will be more progress. As far as pre-development works for the airport are concerned, including levelling the ground, breaking mountains, we are ahead. The pre-development works for the airport will be completed by December 2018 and the first tender for the airport will be floated soon. We are confident that both CIDCO and the concessionaire will be able to meet the deadline.

More than half of the total 3,000 families are yet to shift. The families have sought jobs and means for a sustainable livelihood after they shift to the Pushpaknagar node. They also need schools, cemeteries, etc. How do you plan to deal with their demands?

Among the many packages offered to the displaced families, CIDCO has offered the best one till date. We are providing them a rental package for 18 months during which they are expected to build houses on plots offered by CIDCO. We are working towards providing Pushpaknagar with all the required facilities, including a crematorium.

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We are also helping the local residents in demarcation of the plots. They had complaints against the schools built for their children but we have provided all modern facilities and infrastructure. The authorities, including the zilla parishad, should now take care of the other demands.

More than 50 per cent of affected locals are employed in the development works of the airport. Most of them are taking care of the required earthworks for the project amounting to more than Rs 500 crore. They will also be provided PAP certificates, which will help them get government jobs. We will also impart them computer and communication skills, so that they can get ground handling, security jobs at the airport.

Many villages around the airport were flooded after Navi Mumbai received heavy rains this monsoon. Local residents have also complained about the diversion of Ulwe river.

We are diverting the Ulwe river because it is a requirement. It is being done under the supervision of the Central Water and Power Research Station. During the first rains, we found out that the contractors had made a temporary culvert for the water to flow while they were diverting the river. This blocked water flow in certain villages, including Kombudbhuj. We removed that culvert immediately. For the other villages, including Dungi and Pargav which were flooded, the CWPRS is preparing a report on designing these villages in such a way that they do not flood. Also, we are replanting five trees for every tree cut for the project.

What will be the main features, characteristics of the airport?

The concessionaire has submitted the masterplan of the airport and has roped in one of the best architects, Zaha Hadid, to design the terminal building. While I am not aware of the details, it will be much better than Terminal 2A of Mumbai airport in terms of connectivity, design and passenger comfort. Also, our projects have not seen any cost escalation from the estimated Rs 16,300 crore.

What are the various transport modes planned for passengers?

By rail, the Targhar station being planned on the Seawoods-Uran line will be in close proximity to the airport. CIDCO will complete work on the first phase of the Seawoods-Uran line by August 15. We have designed the Targhar station in a way that it matches the airport requirements. The elevated corridor of Chhatarapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus-Panvel will also provide connectivity to the airport.

By road, we are carrying out the necessary work on Amra Marg, providing enough junctions to ensure the airport is well-connected. We are also planning to launch hovercraft services from the island city to Navi Mumbai, which will also provide a water route for passengers to reach the airport. The airport will be an hour’s distance from Pune. We are also constructing a coastal road so that the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link will be connected to the airport. We expect to construct it within the next 30 months. We are also planning another coastal road in Kharghar to connect to NMIA.

How will CIDCO recover the costs for the airport?

We have 26 per cent equity in the airport development so we will get the required revenue from it. We will also get appreciated value for the land parcels around the airport. We are constructing an Aerocity on close to 60 hectares of land around the airport, which will see hotels for passengers.

What is the update on Navi Mumbai Airport Influence Notified Area (NAINA)?

Three schemes concerning developments on NAINA are under finalisation. Each scheme sees different hectares of land allocated for it. We are spending close to Rs 7,000 crore on its infrastructure development. It will take another eight months for completion of projects in NAINA.

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Also, we have planned a corporate park on 140 hectares of land in Navi Mumbai. The park will be connected by the Navi Mumbai Metro. We have offered an attractive housing scheme for 14,000 houses in Ulwe and Taloja nodes. We are also planning to build art plazas, museums, performing art centres and art galleries in Navi Mumbai. We try to encourage more art places in the centre through this.