Government must make diverse links to Mopa
Around 30 percent of the work on the greenfield international airport at Mopa has been completed. The central and state governments have set August 15, 2022 as the date for commissioning of the new airport. The day will coincide with the 75th anniversary of the country’s Independence. According to the officials overseeing the construction of the new airport, the progress of the work is almost as per the schedule despite the prevalence of the coronavirus pandemic. Unlike during the first wave of the pandemic, in which the work had to be halted for 28 days, this time around the work has continued despite some workers, most of whom are migrants, testing positive for the coronavirus and some others preferring to return to their homes. The pace of work has been affected to some extent, but the work was not disrupted. The officials are however confident that they will make up in due course of time and that the work on the first phase would be completed by April next year so as to enable DGCA to complete inspection and the testing of the airport before commissioning.
Mopa is the second international airport to be developed in Goa. The existing Dabolim airport is a defence establishment under the command of Indian Navy, whose civil enclave is being operated by the Airports Authority of India. Civilian and defence operations at Dabolim share a common runway which results in severe airside congestion, which has in turn been detrimental for the long-term growth of civilian traffic at Dabolim airport. This led to a new airport being proposed. The proposal got an approval from the ICAO after prolonged studies. It was only after a techno-economic feasibility report submitted in 2013 projected an air traffic of 10 million passengers to Goa by 2035 that the government decided to go ahead with the proposal and set the ball rolling. The project is likely to cost Rs 3,000 crore and is developed under the Build Operate Transfer (BOT) model in four phases. The first phase costing a total of Rs 1,500 crore is now scheduled to be completed in less than a year from now.
The central government has put to rest the apprehensions over the closure of Dabolim airport for civilian use after inauguration of the Mopa airport. They have done it by adding more facilities at Dabolim for civilian use. They have also assured that both the airports would co-exist. The foundation of the new airport was laid by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 13, 2016 and the project was to be completed in the financial year 2019-20 but was delayed because of orders from the Supreme Court, which now have been vacated. The prevalence of coronavirus also added to the delay. Let us hope that work would be completed as per the new schedule. With there being no scope for employment during construction of the new airport, the state government has opened avenues for employment of the locals, especially the land losers, once the new airport becomes operational. Accordingly, an Aviation Skill Development Centre has been set up to train the local youth to man the jobs that would be available post commissioning of the new airport.
Though the work on the project is almost according to the schedule, the state government has to ensure that there is proper and diverse connectivity to the airport. The work on widening of the connecting roadway has been going on for years and there are no signs of it being completed in near future. Along with the progress of the airport works, the government has to also ensure that roads are completed well ahead of the scheduled commissioning of the airport so that people do not have to face difficulties in commuting to and from the new airport. Since the new airport is located in the northernmost part of the state, the completion of the road works becomes even more important. The state government should make it sure that people travelling south are not inconvenienced by narrow and faulty roads. There should be more roadways connecting Mopa to the south and north for fast and smooth communication.