Work on the much-delayed airport at Shirdi has suffered yet another setback, one that has cost the exchequer crores of rupees. Due to the delay in implementing the project, the only runway of the airport was damaged by two-wheeler riders and motorists, who used it as a short-cut between Sangamner and Shirdi. The runway had to be repaired at a cost of Rs 7 crore, informed officials.
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Work on the airport started in 2010 and was expected to be completed by 2012. The 2.5-km long and 60-metre wide runway was constructed by the Maharashtra Airport Development Company (MADC), the implementing agency of the project. “However, due to the unavailability of funds, the project was stuck,” said Vishwas Patil, vice-chairman and managing director of MADC.
Before the project came to a grinding halt, the MADC had managed to construct the 2.5-km long runway and a compound wall which stretched over 6 kilometres. “Work on the compound wall remained incomplete. It was supposed to be a 14-km long wall, built around the 1,100-acre airport. As only part of the wall had been constructed, the area became a freeway for two-wheeler riders and other vehicular traffic. It suffered massive damage and had to be recarpeted and redone,” said MADC officials.
The open and unfenced land was used as short-cut by two-wheeler riders and motorists from Sangamner to reach Shirdi, said Patil. “This route was a shortcut… they had to travel 7-8 kilometres less to reach Shirdi,” he said.
Patil said after he took charge a year ago, MADC has completed work on the 14-km compound wall, which has ensured that encroachers stay away. But repairing the damaged runway has been expensive. “So far, Rs 7 crore has been spent on it,” said Patil.
According to MADC, the airport is ready for a take-off and they were waiting for an official date of inauguration. “Facilities such as four parking bays, ATC, perimetre road, electric substation and others have been put in place,” said Patil.
The construction of the airport was estimated to cost Rs 317 crore and so far Rs 250 crore has been spent on it, said officials. The airport is located in Kakdi village, about 13 km from Shirdi, on a 1,100-acre plot. To build the airport, the state government has acquired 750 acres from 712 farmers of Kakdi village. The Shirdi Devasthan had also contributed to the project.
After the Airports Authority of India (AAI) gave its green signal for the project last year, the first flight at the airport landed in March. A six-seater chartered plane, Piper Seneca, belonging to the Bombay Flying Club, took off from Juhu in Mumbai at 8.30 am and landed at the Shirdi airport within 45 minutes.
The airport project was taken up by the then Congress government in Maharashtra in 2010, following demands for air connectivity to Shirdi from cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai and from other countries.