Mumbai: After a string of missed deadlines, the Navi Mumbai International Airport, for which Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone in 2018, is likely to be commissioned for operations by December 2024.
The project crossed a major milestone two months ago when the concessionaire, the Navi Mumbai International Airport Limited (NMIAL), reached financial closure, giving the implementing authorities the confidence to meet this deadline.
Sanjay Mukherjee, vice-chairman and managing director of the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO), the state’s implementing authority for the project, told ThePrint, “Financial Closure would mean that the fund flow of the project has been finalised. Obviously, that would ensure project milestones to be achieved and enable the project to be on schedule. All clearances have been obtained. CIDCO’s pre-development work is complete.”
The NMIAL is a subsidiary of Adani Enterprises Limited and is developing the Navi Mumbai International Airport on a public-private partnership basis with CIDCO.
The much-needed Rs 16,000 crore Navi Mumbai International Airport is touted to be one of the world’s largest greenfield airports with two parallel runways of 3,700 metres and full-length taxiways, spaced 1,550 metres apart.
Pre-development work was necessary to prepare the greenfield site for construction. The work, which started in 2017, involved flattening a hillock, reclaiming marsh land and diverting a river at the site.
The concessionaire, Mukherjee said, has informed CIDCO in writing that the airport will be commissioned for operations on or before 31 December 2024.
Mukherjee said the next step would be to raise the land level by 8.5 metres and construct the terminal building, apron and the runways.
The rehabilitation of those affected by the project, among the most complex tasks in the entire project, is also complete, he added. “Only four structures remain (on the site). These, as per the directives of the Bombay High Court, are to be removed by the developers,” he said.
Land acquisition for the Navi Mumbai airport — about 1,160 hectares and spread across 12 villages — was highly time-consuming with the majority of the villagers opposing the project.
CIDCO ultimately acquired the land through a unique compensation model — transfer of developed land measuring 22.5 per cent of their land, providing alternative accommodation three times the size of their current residence, and job guarantees for children, among other incentives.
A long time in the making
There is an urgent need for a second airport in Mumbai on account of the ever-increasing traffic handled by the existing Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport.
According to the latest data from the Airport Authority of India (AAI), the Mumbai airport recorded the steepest rise in passenger traffic among all Indian airports in 2021-22 — by 97 per cent, as the airport catered to 2 crore international and domestic passengers in the fiscal year.
The Navi Mumbai airport was first conceived in 1997, when the Union government identified Mumbai’s need for a second airport.
However, with environmental hurdles, land acquisition issues and pre-development work, it took nearly two decades for the project to reach a stage where construction could begin. The cost of the airport also surged to Rs 16,000 crore, from the original estimate of Rs 4,766 crore in 2006-07.
When PM Modi laid the foundation stone for the project in 2018, it was a month after CIDCO signed a concession agreement with the GVK Group to develop and operate the new airport after a long-drawn tendering process. The then chief minister Devendra Fadnavis set an optimistic deadline of completing the airport by 2019.
The project, however, suffered more delays, further hampered by the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown. A financial strain on the original concessionaire, GVK Group, also prompted a change in management in 2020 when the Adani Group took over.
(Edited by Zinnia Ray Chaudhuri)