27 persons have approached the courts against acquisition of land; stakeholders want the expansion to be expedited
The good news coming out of Tiruchi International Airport is that Airports Authority of India is making big investments in developing the facility despite a dip in international passenger traffic during 2018-19.
The bad news: tardy progress in land acquisition is stalling the runway extension, an important component of the expansion plans.
At the root of the problem lies the fact that while a new terminal is coming up adjacent to the existing building on AAI’s own land, expansion of the runway and other infrastructure at the airport involves land acquisition.
After the first phase of expansion of the runway from 6,000 to about 8,000 feet, carried out over a decade ago, AAI drew up plans to expand it further to 12,000 feet in phases to facilitate operation of bigger and wide-bodied aircrafts.
It sought about a total of 683.32 acres, which included about 337.70 acres of defence land. Last year, the State government accorded administrative sanction to acquire about 345.62 acres, including wetlands, located mostly at the rear of the airport, mainly for expansion of the runway.
A team of revenue officials, headed by a Special Tahsildhar, was formed to carry out the acquisition, but the task is yet to be completed. A section of land owners opposed acquisition of their properties, but district authorities said they had agreed to accept alternative residential sites.
Meanwhile, in October last, an accident involving an Air India Express aircraft, which brushed the parapet wall during take off, put the spotlight on the delay in runway expansion. The district authorities claimed that land acquisition was progressing swiftly. However, 27 persons approached the courts against acquisition in three blocks of land.
Now, sources say the acquisition process is expected to gain momentum after completion of the election.
Stakeholders want the process to be expedited. “Although the land acquisition process has been going on, there is not much information on the progress made so far; it needs to be speeded up. For without extending the runway, the new terminal building and other expansion will not really serve the purpose. Both works have to be completed simultaneously,” said V. Vasudevan, president, Tiruchi Travel Federation, and managing director of Sangam Group of Hotels.
Another silver lining is the progress being made in construction of a futuristic two-level modular structure in an area of over 60,000 sq mt.
According to a senior AAI official, foundation laying for the massive structure was being carried out by ITD Cementation Company Limited. “Nearly six per cent of the new terminal building project has been completed till now,” the official said.
Funds were not a constraint for the ongoing works with an AAI allocation of over ₹800 crore.
The civil works were apace keeping in mind the deadline for completion of the project designed by Egis India Consulting Engineers Private Limited. The state-of-the-art building would be energy efficient and conform to GRIHA (Green Rating of the Integrated Habitat Assessment) with a range of facilities for travellers.
The official exuded confidence that going by the current pace, the terminal building was on course for completion by September 2021.
The construction of the new terminal was necessitated amid steady rise in air passenger traffic over the years.
The fully air-conditioned terminal would have a capacity to handle 3.63 million passengers per annum and 2,900 passengers during peak hours. A new apron was expected to come up even before completion of the new terminal. It would accommodate 10 aircrafts at a time. Plans were also afoot to construct a new technical block-cum-air traffic control tower.