Vijayawada: Ground is now fully cleared for the much-delayed Visakhapatnam International Airport project to take off.
The Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister’s Office has written to the Prime Minister’s Office requesting that Narendra Modi lay the foundation stone, possibly virtually, for the new airport construction during his visit to the port city of Visakhapatnam on November 12.
But the PMO has not included it in Modi’s itinerary, official sources said.
Development of the new international airport in Public-Private Partnership mode at Bhogapuram, 40-km northeast of Visakhapatnam, was first mooted in the year 2014, post-bifurcation of the state as the existing one in the city is owned by the Indian Navy.
For various reasons, the project did not take off in over eight years.
The original plan was grandiose as the state government wanted to build an aerotropolis that would include aviation-linked manufacturing units, aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility, research and development centre and test laboratories, multi-modal logistics, exhibition and conference centres, leisure and entertainment facilities, aviation education and training facilities.
The plan also included development of the airport with “one runway, parallel taxiway and other infrastructure capable of servicing world’s largest aircrafts”.
The previous Telugu Desam government initiated the process to acquire over 2,700 acres of land in the Bhogapuram area for the airport development but it got stuck in litigation all these years over a 50-acre piece right at the centre of the proposed project where the runway was supposed to come up.
The AP High Court last week finally dismissed the farmers’ petitions against the land acquisition, clearing the way for the project development.
In 2018, the previous Chandrababu Naidu government chose GMR Airports Limited as the project developer after cancelling the bid earlier won by the Airports Authority of India.
The YSR Congress, then in opposition, opposed handing over the project to GMR but, upon assuming power, signed a concession agreement with the same entity in June 2020, altering the scope of the project.
The Board of the AP Airports Development Corporation Limited Board had felt that the proposed aero city and aviation academy may not be feasible and communicated the decision to the state government.
Accordingly, the other components of the plan were dropped and only the international airport would now be developed.
Consequently, the state government decided to retain 500 of the total 2,703 acres of land acquired for the aerotropolis, and hand over only 2,203 acres to GMR for development of the greenfield international airport.
According to GMR sources, the Rs 3,000 crore project involves designing, building, financing, constructing, developing, operating and maintaining the greenfield international airport for 40 years, which could be extended by an additional 20 years through international competitive bidding.
A Special Purpose Vehicle GMR Visakhapatnam International Airport Limited (GVIAL) has been floated to take up the development.
As per the latest development model, GMR offered to pay Rs 303 PPF (per passenger fee) to the state government. As per projections, the number of passengers is expected to touch nine million by the year 2036.