CHENNAI: The city is likely to get a spanking new airport by 2015, nine years before the earlier D-day. The greenfield project will be taken up on 4,822 acres of land near Sriperumbudur, northwest of Chennai, at an estimated cost of Rs 3,500 crore.
The dates have been advanced in light of certain trouble — largely relating to land acquisition — that cropped up in the Rs 2,350-crore modernisation and expansion project of Kamaraj International Airport at Meenambakkam.
Unlike Bangalore and Hyderabad, Chennai's old airport will not be shut down when the new one comes up. Rather, the city will have two airports like those planned in Delhi and Mumbai. The search for a private consortium to build the airport will start soon. It will be offered a 74% stake, while the state and central governments will hold 13% each.
Officials told The Times of India that the state government had expressed difficulty in acquiring the 1,069 acres of land required west of the Adyar river for building a parallel runway as part of phase-II of the Meenambakkam expansion plan.
It is proving tough to get more than 300 acres of the land identified as the costs are prohibitively high. It's also difficult to clear the entire area of habitation, a state government official said. At current prices, the government estimates it will cost Rs 2,000 crore to acquire the land.
Besides, the Madras High Court recently ruled that the government could acquire land, but it's learnt that chief minister M Karunanidhi is not keen on displacing too many households in the area as he anticipates an adverse political fallout.
In the wake of these developments, the civil aviation ministry, in consultation with the state government, decided to speed up the greenfield airport at Sriperumbudur. Land for the new airport can be acquired easily as it belongs to the government.
Joint secretary, ministry of civil aviation, K N Shrivastava said air traffic was likely to grow faster in Chennai than earlier projected and would justify the decision on a new airport. The ministry will set up a committee to decide how flights will be distributed between the two airports. It is too early to be specific on which flights (international, domestic and low-cost airlines) will operate from where, an official said.