Car park near ATC tower poses bomb threat: Airports Authority of India

An RTI query has revealed the Airports Authority of India’s stern warning to Mumbai airport authorities that the car park at the domestic terminal has exposed the Air Traffic Control tower to bomb threats and security needs to be beefed up

Airports Authority of India (AAI) has pulled up authorities at the city airport for their lax security measures and not following safety norms laid down by the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security.

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View of the car park at the domestic airport from the Air Traffic Control tower. File pic
View of the car park at the domestic airport from the Air Traffic Control tower. File pic

A Right to Information (RTI) request filed by an activist has revealed that the AAI has warned the Mumbai International Airport Ltd (MIAL) that the car park at the domestic terminal is too close to the the vital Air Traffic Control (ATC) tower, and poses a bomb threat to it.

The letter from AAI’s Joint General Manager (Security) S K Malik to MIAL authorities in November 2014
The letter from AAI’s Joint General Manager (Security) S K Malik to MIAL authorities in November 2014

The information came to the fore after RTI activist Vishwas Bhamburkar filed an RTI application and received a reply last week. According to a November 3 letter, written by AAI’s Joint General Manager (Security) S K Malik, an inspection of the airport was carried out on October 10 last year, which revealed that the ATC complex is separated by a boundary wall which is only 10-15 metres from the car park at the domestic terminal.

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Malik told the airport authorities that, as per BCAS norms, a parking area should be at least 100 metres from the terminal building. His letter also points out that the car park surrounds the ATC complex on three sides and the entrance has too many two-wheelers parked.

AAI’s letter to Mumbai airport authorities warning of potential security threats to the ATC
AAI’s letter to Mumbai airport authorities warning of potential security threats to the ATC

The letter states that, in the present conditions, “subversive forces” can easily target the new ATC tower by planting explosives in cars parked in the nearby parking area, and asks MIAL to take measures to avoid any eventuality. Around 4,000 vehicles are parked in the domestic terminal.

MIAL replies
In its reply, MIAL simply denied allotting any two-wheeler parking in front of the ATC tower and that the car park surrounding the ATC would be “relocated in due course.”

Answering the question regarding the bomb threat, MIAL said all vehicles coming to the car park pass through a Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) check post and that a private security guard also randomly checks vehicles. MIAL also claimed that CISF were deployed for surveillance in and around the car park and the approach area.

The airport operator also claimed that a technical team had prepared a bomb blast effect mitigation plan and, as per this plan, a “unique reinforced cement concrete (RCC) compound wall (blast mitigation) with (a) height of 3,400 mm from 0 mm level and thickness of 350 mm has been constructed to cater (to) car bomb blast from outside (the) boundary of (the) ATC tower.”

'‘Casual approach'
AAI expressed its dissatisfaction with MIAL’s replies, calling its approach casual and that proper security arrangements need to be in place till the car park is relocated. The authority also questioned how a bomb threat could be unearthed if there is no system in place for doing so.

“...your letter does not speak about any explosive detection system deployed at the car park surrounding the ATC tower on three sides. The CISF check post is not provided with an explosive detection system at the car parking of the domestic terminal, therefore leaving the ATC tower vulnerable to vehicles parked in the car park,” reads AAI’s reply.

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AAI has also said that the security in and around ATC tower is the responsibility of MIAL and it (MIAL) cannot get away with saying that it hasn’t allowed any two-wheelers to parking in front of the ATC’s entrance.

Bringing up the RCC compound wall claimed to be a part of the “bomb effect mitigation plan”, AAI has asked MIAL to clarify if any standards have been followed in reducing the effect of an explosion and if the wall has been tested and certified by a government agency. If so, relevant details are to be furnished, the letter reads.

AAI’s letter asking for clarifications from MIAL is dated November 27. RTI activist Bhamburkar told mid-day, “These letters highlighting the security threat to Mumbai airport were also sent to the police commissioner. Yet the situation remains the same till date. This shows how the airport of a city that has a history of terrorist attacks is vulnerable.”

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