The civil aviation ministry on November 12, 2015, approved the setting up of a greenfield airport at Bhiwadi in Rajasthan. This would be the second international airport in the National Capital Region (NCR) after the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi that is expected to saturate its capacity in the next 6-7 years.
This puts an official end to a very old plan of having an international airport at Jewar in Uttar Pradesh, also part of NCR. The Jewar airport plan is believed to have been first made in 2001 by BJP member Rajnath Singh when he was Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister. The plan was taken forward by the ensuing BSP government led by Mayawati who even branded the project as the Taj International Airport Hub (TIAH) project that would come over 10,000 acres of land. It is learnt that over 2,000 acres of land was acquired for the project. The plan was scrapped by the Samajwadi Party that came into power in 2012. Newer sites like Agra and Meerut were proposed but they could not be pursued for several reasons including lack of land availability.
The Bhiwadi airport though empowered with ministerial clearance will need to contend with a few policy issues. Current norms do not permit a new international airport within a radius of 150 km from an existing one. However, this rule is relaxed if the second airport is required because the first is likely to overshoot its capacity. The existing Delhi International Airport is expected to touch its peak capacity of 100 million passengers by 2021-22. In FY15, the airport handled 41 million passengers (up 11 per cent from FY14) against its current capacity of 60 million passengers per year.
It may be mentioned that the Navi Mumbai international airport in Maharashtra received approval despite being within 150-km of the Chhattrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai, as the latter is envisaged to exhaust its capacity soon.
The first right of refusal to develop the Bhiwadi airport will be extended to GMR, the owner-cum-operator of the Delhi International Airport (DIAL). In other words, bids will be invited from developers and GMR Group will be given an opportunity to match the best bid.
The Bhiwadi airport will form part of the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor project. It is interesting to note that as much as 60 per cent of Rajasthan’s area falls under the influence area of the upcoming Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor. Bhiwadi lies in Alwar district located in the north-eastern end of the state. Alwar is close to state capital Jaipur and borders Haryana.