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Green panel backs clearance for airport projects worth Rs19,300 crore

LiveMint logoLiveMint 07-09-2017 Mayank Aggarwal & Tarun Shukla

New Delhi: An expert panel of the environment ministry has recommended green clearance and terms of reference (ToRs) for several airport building and modernizing projects worth over Rs19,300 crore in smaller cities like Agartala and Raipur.

The decisions are in line with the government’s focus on improving regional air connectivity across the country.

The proposals were discussed at a meeting of the environment ministry’s expert appraisal committee (EAC) for infrastructure projects related to airport, ports, construction projects and others over 21-24 August.

As per the minutes of EAC’s meeting, which were reviewed by Mint, the Agartala airport project includes construction of a new integrated terminal building, apron and link taxiway at the existing airport.

The proposed domestic terminal building area has been designed for 600 arriving and 600 departing passengers including 100 international passengers, at a time. The estimated construction cost of the project is Rs427.82 crore.

EAC recommended clearance for the project but stipulated a series of safeguards regarding waste disposal, drainage, controlling pollution including noise pollution and usage of groundwater among others. EAC recommends clearance for a project or rejects it, but the final clearance is given by the environment ministry, which rarely overturns the recommendations.

The panel also gave the go-ahead to a project related to the extension of runway and expansion of apron among other things at Swami Vivekananda Airport in Raipur. The estimated cost of the project is Rs103.5 crore.

Another project that received the panel’s nod at the meeting was the expansion of the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, the cost of which is estimated at Rs16,000 crore.

Meanwhile, the committee also cleared ToRs for the modernization and expansion of the domestic airport at Amausi, Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh) and allowed amendment in ToR for developing a commercial airport at Mundra in the Kutch district of Gujarat.

ToRs are guidelines for conducting environmental impact assessment studies of projects, based on which the environment ministry grants or rejects green clearance. The estimated cost of the Lucknow project is Rs1,383 crore and it includes the development of a new terminal building and allied facilities.

The Mundra project, however, pertains to the development of a full-fledged commercial airport from an airstrip now. The plan is to upgrade it to the level of an international air cargo hub with night landing facility. The estimated cost of the project is Rs1,400 crore.

EAC was told that the Mundra airport has potential to be developed as a “commercial modern state-of-the-art international airport capable of serving requirements of cargo hub centre, passenger/baggage handling facility, fuel refilling, aprons, hangars, etc., for various kinds of aircraft”.

Earlier this year, the Union cabinet approved a plan to spend Rs4,500 crore to develop or upgrade 50 under-served or unserved airports and airstrips to boost the aviation ministry’s regional flying scheme, Udan. At least 15 airports or airstrips are planned to be revived during 2017-18 and 2018-19 each, while 20 airports or airstrips would be revived during 2019-20.

Udan, the regional aviation scheme which will be in operation for 10 years, envisages providing connectivity to unserved and underserved cities and towns by reviving existing airstrips and airports.

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