The Rs 4,000-crore Alwar Aerotropolis, the flagship airport project of the USD 90-billion Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC), is unlikely to take off as the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA), Government of India has red-flagged its implications on passenger and cargo traffic at the capital's international airport that is just 100 kms away as the crow flies. This is the second such project near the National Capital Region to face trouble after the Greater Noida airport that was quietly buried last May after eleven years of planning, Yashodhara Dasgupta and Dilasha Seth reported in The Economic Times.
For the industrial corridor, India's idea to spur manufacturing with world-class infrastructure and seven new cities, a setback to the Alwar airport may damage its viability. Proposed to span 24 sq kms with business parks and logistics hubs surrounding the main airport, the Alwar Aerotropolis is one of the biggest 'early bird' projects for the DMIC that is being created through Japanese assistance.
The project site has been approved by the Rajasthan government and has received a no-objection certificate from the Ministry of Defence, Government of India. The only hitch holding up the airport now is its distance from the Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport—140-odd kms by road and 100 kms aerially.
"The Civil Aviation Ministry has asked the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor Development Corporation (DMICDC) to establish that the Alwar project won't affect traffic at the Delhi airport," said a senior government official. The Ministry has cited its contractual obligations to the Delhi airport's joint venture operator, Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL), for its reluctance.
The Operation, Management and Development agreement and the State Support Agreement (SSA), signed by the government with DIAL, grant the operator the right of first refusal for a second airport, with the SSA explicitly specifying a 150-km radius from IGI Airport for this right on a second airport.
Accordingly, the DMICDC has initiated a study to ascertain the project's impact on the Delhi airport. It has also pointed out that the Civil Aviation Ministry's pact with DIAL allows its private partner to compete for building the Alwar airport.
As per the SSA, DIAL can participate in the competitive bidding process of the new airport and grants it the right of first refusal as long as its bid is within the range of ten per cent of the most competitive bid received."There are no alternate sites possible for the Alwar airport which is essential for the viability of the industrial areas planned in the DMIC. The Delhi airport would reach its saturation point in another five years," said a government official. A formal report is also expected on the suitability of the Alwar site for an airport from the Airports Authority of India (AAI), which has a 26 per cent stake in DIAL.