Building the Navi Mumbai International Airport (NMIA) is going to pose challenges on several fronts, it seems. First, there is the question of the time it will take to get the new airport up and running, with the Union Civil Aviation Minister taking a view at odds with the stand of the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO), the nodal agency for the project. Second, the issue of resettlement of families to be affected by the project is yet to be resolved fully. Third, the deadline for submission of bids for building the airport has had to be extended again, what with all but one bidder in the fray shooting off letters to the authorities raising concerns over the exercise.
“It will take eight to nine years for the Navi Mumbai airport to be built,” Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju had said in a interview in December last year. “The capacity constraint at the Mumbai airport is a concern for all but constructing the new airport will take at least four years if the development work takes place efficiently. Building a greenfield airport in Hyderabad and Bengaluru took six to seven years. Since this airport will be built on marshy land, unlike those in Bengaluru and Hyderabad, it will take more time,” the minister had said
Incidentally, CIDCO had so far taken the line that the new airport would be built in four years’ time. When queried on this, CIDCO senior public relations officer Dr. Mohan Ninawe admitted that building the airport could take six years, if not more.
That Raju might be right became clear when FE visited the airport site. Detailed land surveys of the area are yet to start. Even the pre-development work which involves cutting of hillocks, filling up of marshy areas, and diversion of creeks and rivers is behind schedule. Meanwhile the quarrying and sand mining mafia is having a field day, employing machinery to exploit the area’s natural resources. “Most of the hills have already been tunneled into for quarrying,” says a villager. “Flattening the area should not take too long or too much effort,” he adds by way of consolation. Sand mining is being carried out at the 7-km Ulve creek for the cheap, dark sand that is used for construction. Police cases were registered earlier against three sand mining gangs but the illegal activities continue unchecked.