Bhiwadi in Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje’s Rajasthan is all set to house the second international airport in the National Capital Region, following the Ministry of Civil Aviation’s approval of the project. This dashes the hopes that Uttar Pradesh had of getting the permission for an international airport at Jewar, on the outskirts of Greater Noida. UP’s erstwhile Mayawati government had proposed the setting up of an airport at Jewar and had acquired over 2,000 acres of land for the proposed project. This airport now has been awarded to Rajasthan.
The Delhi International Airport Ltd (DIAL), a consortium led by GMR Infrastructure, which has built and is currently operating the Delhi airport, will have the first right of refusal in the Bhiwadi airport project.
“The Bhiwadi project will require the waiving off of certain provisions that prohibit the setting up of an airport within a 150 km radius of the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi,” said a senior ministry official. As per initial estimates, the new international airport will have a minimum annual passenger capacity of 40 million.
The Bangalore-based company will be asked to match the lowest bid received by the ministry after the bidding process for the proposed airport. Ministry officials say that the project has been “cleared after extensive study and scientific projections of air traffic.” “As per the rules of agreement with GMR Infrastructure, they will have the first right of refusal, meaning they will be asked first to match the lowest bid received for the project after the bidding process,” the official added.
Bhiwadi’s relative proximity to Delhi helped its case. It is located at a distance of 65 km from New Delhi, 200 km for Jaipur, 90 km from Alwar, 22 km from Gurgaon (Manesar) and 60 km from Faridabad. Whereas, Jewar is at a distance of 78 km from New Delhi, 103 km from Gurgaon, 120 km from Manesar, and 57 km from Noida.
“Jewar also lacked the basic infrastructure required in an area where an international airport is being set up. It also gets difficult to work with a state government that is opposed to you at the Centre,” the source added.
“The existing airport in Delhi will reach a saturation point in terms of annual passenger footfall of 100 million between 2021 and 2023. To counter the situation, we need to build a new airport now. We cannot wait any longer. If you want to see a second airport in NCR, then Bhiwadi is the logical option, not UP,” the official said.
A senior board member of the Airports Authority of India said that Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju held detailed meetings with a Cabinet committee, Airports Authority of India and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation for the proposed airport project.
“The Delhi-Jaipur belt is not too developed as of now, but it is expected to grow very fast in the future, even though it is not at par with Greater Noida right now. Also, passengers from Noida live in ‘close’ proximity to IGI, so an airport in Bhiwadi will not affect them much. Jewar would have been a boon for residents of Noida and Greater Noida, but such a large project cannot be cleared to keep just one section happy,” the member said.
For the third time in two years hopes for an international airport at Jewar have come to a naught. The Uttar Pradesh government had indicated its willingness to build a domestic airport in Jewar as early as 2012. But Mayawati’s ambitious project was scrapped on the ground that the Centre’s clearance for Jewar was pending for seven years and finally, the UP government said that it did not have any other alternatives.
Earlier, the Mayawati government had scrapped a proposed airport project in Partapur, about 16 km from Meerut. The project had attracted interest from big players, and had received in-principle approval from the Centre. It was dropped since the proposed Taj International Airport would have been located less than 100 km from IGI. Later the project was shifted to Firozabad in UP.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, when he was UP Chief Minister (2000-2002), for the first time asked the Centre to set up the Taj International Airport in the state.