So where is the Navi Mumbai International Airport?

Following the CM's promise of infra projects worth Rs 52,000 crore, mid- day tracks four key projects in Navi Mumbai that have so far turned out to be nothing but empty promises

On Monday, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis brought cheer to many by announcing infrastructure projects worth Rs 52,000 crore, all of which he aims to see through by 2019.

Also read: Work on Navi Mumbai airport may start in 3 weeks

Site of the proposed Navi Mumbai International Airport
Site of the proposed Navi Mumbai International Airport

Whether he will achieve this ambitious feat is another matter altogether, however, especially going by the state’s past record: even major projects like the Navi Mumbai International Airport (NMIA) and the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL) have been in the pipeline for at least a decade, repeatedly missing deadlines, leading to ever escalating costs.

Following on the heels of the CM’s ambitious announcement, mid-day tracks four key infra projects in Navi Mumbai that have languished for years and missed deadlines — the airport, MTHL, and the Navi Mumbai Metro. Although all these projects were declared years ago, they are all far from completion. In fact, work has not even begun on the first three.

Take the mega project of the airport, for instance. The project was first proposed in 1998, and for as long as anyone can remember, the site has been marked out by a massive signboard, even though the authorities are yet to acquire the entire stretch of land.

Also read: Work on Navi Mumbai International Airport to start by October, says Maharashtra CM

The 2014 deadline is long gone, but the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) has not even begun pre-development work such as levelling the ground, cutting the hillocks, and reclaiming the marsh lands.

Land issues
The deadline has now been pushed to 2019, but sources in CIDCO told this paper that the airport was unlikely to be ready before 2022. Even now, nearly 3,000 villagers across 10 villages are still dwelling at the airport site. Their rehabilitation is of paramount importance — until they hand over the land, the project will hang in the balance.

However, according to CIDCO’s joint managing director, V Radha, the work will begin next year. “There is no hurdle as far as rehabilitation of villagers is concerned. In a closed-door meeting, the villagers volunteered to move out of the airport region and live elsewhere on rent until their plot is developed.

We will stick to our deadline and hope that the airport will be ready by 2019. Only 27 hectares of the total 1,160 hectares are yet to be acquired by CIDCO, so everything is in place,” he told mid-day. The airport isn’t the only project weighed down by land issues.

The 48.3-km-long corridor CST-Panvel rail corridor has not even begun because large swatches of land are yet to be acquired. Another major issue is a lack of funding, a problem that is only getting worse as the project stagnates and the costs increase. Currently, the estimated cost of the project is a hefty Rs 14,000 crore.

One arm of this corridor is meant to connect Seawoods to the proposed airport, but until the airport itself comes up, there is no point to this connection. The same problem exists with the Navi Mumbai Metro Line II, leading up to the airport. Without the airport’s completion, neither the commencement date, nor the deadline can be fixed for this corridor.

Line I connects CBD Belapur to Pendhar, from where Line II will then go to Khandeshwar, with an extension to the Navi Mumbai airport. However, Line I has already missed two deadlines, leading to the cost rising from the initial R1,985 crore to R3,000 crore.

Escalating costs
With each delay, the cost of each of these projects rises further, but the biggest hike has been witnessed by the MTHL project which has been stagnating for five decades, ever since it was first proposed in 1962.

It took three decades just to have the project approved in 1996, at the estimated cost of Rs 4,000. Not only did the MMRDA miss the deadline by 14 years, the cost has now inflated to a whopping Rs 11,000 crore.

Also read: Navi Mumbai - Airport work crawls ahead, pre-development to begin in March

The project, meant to connect Mumbai to its satellite city, Navi Mumbai, has been sent back to the Ministry of Environment and Forests for final approval.

Speaking to mid-day, Devendra Fadnavis said, “We are confident we will start construction by next year and the loan agreement (between JICA and the government) will be signed before that.”

(Compiled by Ankoor Anvekar, Ranjeet Jadhav and Shashank Rao)

Navi Mumbai International Airport
Starting date: CIDCO receives approval in 2006
Deadline: Phase I was to be completed by 2014
Estimated cost: Rs 4,500 crore
Current status: Work will begin next year; deadline pushed to 2019, cost escalates to Rs 14,000 crore

Mumbai Trans Harbour Link Project
Starting date: In 1996, project is sanctioned after discussing it for over three decades.
Deadline: 2001 
Estimated cost: Rs 4,000 crore
Current status: 14 years past deadline, MMRDA yet to start construction; estimated cost now over Rs 11,000 crore

Rail: CST-Panvel Fast Corridor
Starting date: Proposed in the Railway Budget of 2009-10
Deadline: 2019
Estimated cost: Rs 14,000 crore
Current status: Still in planning stage

Navi Mumbai Metro, Phase I
Starting date: Foundation stone laid in May 2011
Deadline: December 2014
Estimated cost: Rs 1,985 crore
Current status: 65 per cent civil work completed; two deadlines missed and project now expected to finish in May 2017; cost escalates to Rs 3,000 crore

Profit for builders
While the airport work is yet to begin, builders have used it to the full extent to sell real estate in the vicinity. According to them, however, they are not the only ones who have benefited. “We did sell projects saying that airport is proposed nearby, and now it is coming up. But even CIDCO sold its plots in Navi Mumbai showing the proposed airport in their booklet,” said Manohar Shroff, secretary of MCHI-CREDAI, Navi Mumbai.

Cargo airport?
The rumour is that since the Navi Mumbai airport will be well connected to the Jawaharlal Nehru Port, it will focus on cargo. A senior officer from Mantralaya said, “In cities with two airports, one usually sees that, both do carry passengers, but one’s major focus is on cargo.”

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