Prakash Kamat

PANAJI: Even as the Goa government is in the process of expediting the land acquisition process for the proposed international airport at Mopa village in north Goa, regional parties and people in the coastal tourism belt of south Goa continue to question the wisdom behind implementing the project.

Parties such as the United Goan Democratic Party feel that an airport at Mopa in north Goa could provide a boost to tourism in Maharashtra rather than Goa.

The project, recently cleared by a high-power panel led by Chief Minister Digambar Kamat, has been endorsed by the Centre and the State government has already put land acquisition process on a fast track.

Those who oppose the project feel that the new airport that would come up “at the cost of civilian air traffic at the Dabolim international airport,” and it could undermine the tourism prospects of south Goa. Churchill Alemao, former south Goa Congress MP who fought the last Assembly elections challenging the Congress by opposing the airport proposal, has merged his regional party with the Congress and become a senior Minister in the Congress-led coalition.

Finding that the new airport in north Goa may be opposed to by the hotel lobby in sought Goa, which is his political base, Mr. Alemao has demanded that a Memorandum of Understanding be signed between the Centre and the Navy to retain the Dabolim airport for civilian operations even after the Mopa airport comes up.

Interestingly, the Catholic-dominated Salcete taluk of south Goa has been traditionally a bastion of the ruling Congress.

Hoteliers fear that the south-Goa-based Dabolim International Airport, which is under naval jurisdiction, but used simultaneously for civilian traffic, could eventually be closed for civilian traffic.