Greater Noida project set to take flight, but issues remain

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The Centre had last year said it was planning to expand connectivity and meet potential demand by establishing about 100 airports — doubling the current number — in 15 years at an estimated investment of ₹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.

However, the proposed airport at Jewar in Greater Noida, is plagued by land acquisition woes.

Roadblocks aren’t an issue, which hampers grandiose when it comes to the airport. The project which is slated to be operational in the next four years, at an estimated cost of ₹15,000-₹20,000 crore, will be spread over an area of 5,000 hectares of land.

In another first, the airport is likely to have eight runways and will be double the size of Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport, which is likely to reach saturation point by 2024. This will make it one of the biggest airport in the world.

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It will be counted along with O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, US, which is spread over 7,200 acres and has seven active runways. With the project under the careful scrutiny of chief minister Yogi Adityanath, the Jewar airport is all set to put Uttar Pradesh on the world map along with the Taj Mahal.

The UP government expects the Jewar airport to cater to 30-50 million passengers per year over the next 10-15 years. Currently, the Delhi airport is spread over an area of 2,066 hectares and is projected to reach its full capacity by 2023-24. The Delhi airport currently handles around 70 million passengers per annum, which is likely to be doubled by 2025.

As every project of such enormous scale, the Jewar airport hasn’t been a one to implement. The most crucial speed-break has been land acquisition and compensation to farmers.

Woes over land

The UP government had, on October 30, 2018, notified the acquisition of 1,239.14 hectares of land for the development of the airport under Section 11 of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. Later, the administration also started seeking objections from landowners under Section 19 of the act.

The state government has agreed to give a compensation of ₹2,460 per metre to the farmer whose land is to be acquired for the project. In addition to this, if a farmer living in a plot, for example, 100 metres in which his/her house is built on 30 metres, they will be entitled to a compensation of ₹700 per metre for the 30-metre land. He/she will also be given a plot measuring 100 metres in another place.

The notified area for the Jewar Airport is owned by approximately 9,000 farmers of various villages. A majority of them are said to have agreed in principle, to give their land. However, till date, only less than 500 farmers have received compensation from the government.

Dushyant Nagar, Convenor, Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, says that 75 to 80 per cent farmers who gave their land willingly are running from pillar to post to get their compensation. Nagar says, “Financial and technical bids should be invited for the project only after the acquisition process is completed first.”

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The issue is likely to fester as the 5,000 hectares project will need another 1,441 hectares to be acquired. Of this 1,328 hectares belong to farmers who live in Dayanatpur, Ranhera, Banwaribans, Kishorpur, Rohi, Parohi and Kureb villages. The Jewar International Airport is all set to give a boost for the stagnant real estate market in Noida. Industry experts expect things to slowly start looking up.

Yogi’s ‘Airport Man’ steps in

The UP CM’s faith in the work of who many call as ‘Airport Man’ Dr Arun Veer Singh, an IAS officer holding the dual charge of CEO of Yamuma Expressway Industrial Development Authority (YEIDA) and Noida International Airport Limited (NIAL), is implicit. Singh was given a one-year extension after his retirement. A government order to this effect was issued on July 12 (Friday). Singh, who is said to have built a personal rapport with most
of gram pradhans and pramukhs of the villages, is very accessible to anyone who comes to his office. This is claimed to be one of the reasons he got an extension.

All set for bidding

The Noida International Airport Limited (NIAL), which recently called for e- bids from global investors, said technical bids will be opened on November 6 and financial bids will be opened on November 29. NIAL said in a Twitter post that investors’ queries will be answered August-end. Sources say, till date 12 reputed developers have bought bid documents and expressed their interest in developing the airport. These bidders are told to be experts in this field, but their names have not been revealed due to policy reasons.

PROJECT TIMELINE

2001: CM Rajnath Singh floats the idea of an airport
2010: CM Mayawati ­revives the idea
2012: CM Akhilesh Yadav scraps the project
2016: SP government ­proposes the idea again, but differences with the Centre
delay execution
2017: CM Yogi Adityanath restores the project
2018: UP government ­begins the process for land acquisition

(Vivek Avasthi is Senior Editor – Politics with Business Television India – BTVI)