Government to Build 100 Airports in 15 Years

India plans to expand connectivity and meet potential demand by establishing about 100 airports -doubling the current number -in 15 years at an estimated investment of Rs.4 lakh crore. Of these, 70 will be locations that don't have such a facility, while the rest will be second airports or the expansion of existing airfields to handle commercial flights.

“Airport planning in the past was such that an airport is saturated by the time its development work is completed,“ Sinha said in an interview. “We need to get out of that incremental trap and think for the future and take a long-term view. We will need to add about 100 new airports, as aviation in India grows.“ India has 100 operational airports and is the fastest-growing aviation market in terms of domestic passenger growth. To tap this, airlines like IndiGo and SpiceJet will add about 100 smaller planes to their fleet, over and above plans to add single-aisle aircraft. The government's regional connectivity scheme that offers subsidised fares of Rs.2,500 to unserved and underserved airports has also given the sector a boost.

The plan will be largely driven by the private sector, Sinha said. The 30 airports in the second group will be in cities such as Jaipur, Guwahati, Pune, Delhi-NCR, Mumbai and Goa, among others. Most of the 100 will be built in cities and towns that hold potential such as Kharagpur but have no airport, a senior ministry official said.

Sinha said the government is looking at various models to work with states and expedite land acquisition, which has stalled infrastructure projects. “Land acquisition is a state subject and we could try innovative models to expedite the process,“ Sinha said.“Methods like land pooling or finding a way to make landowners shareholders in the airport project or JVs with states to expedite (projects) are a few of them.“ An airport would need 400 to 5,000 acres, depending on the size of the facility and the scope of the plan.

Analysts welcomed the move.“Indian airport capacity shortages have reached a near-crisis situation, as planning for additional capacity has remained unaddressed for the past 10 years,“ said Kapil Kaul, CEO of Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation, an aviation consultancy firm.

CAPA has suggested an institutionalised process to implement expansion projects in a report on airport infrastructure.

“A National Airports Commission should be established under the aviation ministry, with a responsibility for developing a long-term national airports master plan with a 20-30 year horizon, taking into account central and state economic plans and multi-modal transport connectivity,“ said the report released in October.

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