WHILE an airstrip in Kalyan may be considered for the development of an airport under the Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS), officials from the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Airports Authority of India (AAI) denied the possibility of considering an airport in Kalyan as an alternative to the proposed Navi Mumbai International Airport, a project which has been stuck on account of hurdles in rehabilitation of the project-affected people.
“The work on Navi Mumbai airport is going on smoothly and there exists no possibility of any change. The Kalyan airstrip is being looked at for development under the RCS and we do not see any other reason,” confirmed an official from the Airports Authority of India (AAI).
Speculation regarding the Kalyan airport peaked following an aerial survey of the Navi Mumbai site and the Kalyan airstrip by Union Aviation Minister P Ashok Gajapathi Raju on Tuesday.
State government officials, however, admitted there are problems with the rehabilitation of the project-affected people at the Navi Mumbai site. “The rehabilitation process has not stagnated but it faces issues. In the past, residents have expressed disinterest in the land allocated by CIDCO for rehabilitation. This could be a reason why residents are feeling a little hesitant about shifting,” said Prashant Thakur, BJP legislator from Panvel.
Almost 3,000 project-affected families, spread across nine villages, have accepted a compensation package announced by the state government. They are supposed to start vacating homes after August.
Meanwhile, about the Kalyan project, officials said, “The airstrip, which belongs to the defence authorities, lies between Kalyan and Ambernath. The airstrip, which belongs to an ancient era, is a narrow piece of land. At present, operations of bigger aircraft cannot take place at the airstrip. The visit could be aimed at understanding the development of the strip for further airport use,” said an AAI source.
Officials confirmed that the land at present can only accommodate smaller aircraft up to the size of an ATR.
Earlier on Tuesday, Gajapathi signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis promoting regional connectivity to attract investments and start air-operations. The RCS is a part of the ministry of civil aviation’s National Civil Aviation policy, which aims to boost air connectivity in un-served and underserved airports in Maharashtra by providing infrastructure development and financial support.