Flip-flop over new airport around Delhi continues

New Delhi, July 23 (IANS) What exactly is the status of a proposed new airport in the National Capital Region? Going by the statements of two ministers — one overseeing tourism and the other civil aviation — the position remains unclear.

At a tourism event here on Thursday, attended both by Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma and Civil Aviation Minister Askok Gajapathi Raju, the former said the national city and its neighbourhood needed a new airport, while the latter has maintained that he is unaware of such a proposal.

The duo, however, was together at the event only for a brief while.

The remarks by Sharma, who is also minister of state for civil aviation, come two days after he told parliament that no clearance on such a proposal had been given — in what appeared to be a curious about-turn to an announcement he had himself made on June 26.

Responding to the June 26 remark, Raju had said: “Please ask Mr Sharma about this. Anybody can give a suggestion, anybody can write (to the concerned ministry). I don’t even know whether it should go to the Cabinet.”

On Thursday, Sharma said: “There is a lot of congestion at the Delhi. To serve some 8-10 crore population, who now have to depend solely on the existing airport, there is a need for another one in the National Capital Region.”

He also went into the formalities to be followed for clearances and added: “We have written to Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh governments asking them for land where we can have a new airport. As and when we get a response, we can act.”

Sharma had earlier said that Jewar, around 100 km from the national capital, was among the sites identified. “The proposal to develop a new airport, for which several sites are being explored, including Jewar, would now be sent to the Cabinet for approval,” he had said.

But on Thursday, he said: “We have not decided on Jewar yet. As soon as we get responses from the states we have written to, the location will be decided.”

The reason for this flip-flop, according to officials, is due to an existing guideline that no new airport can come up within 150 km of an existing one.

The proposal has also come under fire as detractors claim the present Indira Gandhi International Airport, which can handle some 62 million passengers per year, has ample under-utilised land and catered to a traffic of 40.9 million in 2014-15. The airport’s capacity can be expanded to 100 million.

In his reply to the Rajya Sabha, Sharma had said: “In case there is a need to set up a greenfield airport within an aerial distance of 150 km of an existing civilian airport, such cases shall be placed before the union cabinet for consideration.”

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