T.S. Shankar

Government has planned a series of meetings to firm up a decision

CHENNAI: Will Chennai go the Bangalore and Hyderabad way to have a Greenfield Airport? Or will the Tamil Nadu Government opt for certain re-alignment of the "operational area" of the existing airport to have a main parallel runway and other logistic facilities to meet the surge in the passenger traffic and aircraft movements?

The answer to these queries will emerge only after the "technical feasibility report" is prepared by the Airports Authority of India (AAI), Chennai, and the Headquarters in New Delhi.

While official sources in the State Government admitted that Tamil Nadu was lagging in the construction of a new international airport with access facilities, the Government's line of thinking on the infrastructure would be known in the next two weeks with a series of meetings planned.

And the first meeting is scheduled on Monday Srivatsava, a Joint Secretary in the Union Civil Aviation Ministry, and AAI Member (Operations) P. Seth. Chief Secretary L.K. Tripathy will chair the meeting.

Blueprint not ready

After holding a series of meetings with the AAI in Chennai, the State Government is yet to firm up a blueprint for the proposed international airport project.

The Government, which was toying with the idea of a parallel runway has also encountered trouble, with the AAI pointing out that a canal was running between.

"The State is yet to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the AAI for expediting the project," a highly placed Civil Aviation Ministry source said.

Pressure mounted

Two Union Ministers T.R. Baalu and Dayanidhi Maran and Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi have been stepping up pressure on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation Praful Patel to include the Chennai airport under the AAI's modernisation programme.

During his visit to Chennai on November 5, the Prime Minister had announced that the Centre would soon begin work on the modernisation of the Chennai airport.

Land allotted

The Jayalalithaa Government had issued a Government Order allotting 1457.5 acres for a new international airport on the north-western side of the existing airport.

The AIADMK Government had planned to make available the land, worth Rs. 300 crore, free from encumbrance and of cost.

This new initiative was based on a study conducted by a United Kingdom-based consultant, which had recommended the construction of a new world-class airport.