Chakan airport: Consultation process to start in a week

It should take just a week for a 'consultation process' to commence for the proposed Chakan airport. After the Maharashtra Airport Development Company (MADC) wrote to the state government last week, talks have been scheduled for next week to give a push to the much-delayed project. The onus of responsibility was put on the government to give a final verdict on the proposed airport.

Secretary general administration (civil aviation) NY Jhantre said the project is definitely on track as there has been no notification to cancel the present site. "We will have a detailed consultation with the MADC and try and move the project forward. The land acquisition issue remains and we would have to find an alternative to it,'' he said. Even as Union Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel had put the onus of going ahead with the airport in Pune on the state government, finally things are moving on the government front.

Jhantre said they were encountering problems with acquisition of land at the site, but discussions will help come up with a solution. When asked about alternative sites, he said the government had approved the Chakan site and had even allocated a seed capital of

Rs 200 crore. "We have already given Rs 95 crore to the MADC. As of now we have not got any decision on changing the site,''said Jhantre.

He said that the consultations should exhaust all "deliberations on the proposed airport" and come up with a final solution. He said the proposed Shirdi airport and the Solapur airport will soon be coming up and only the Pune civil airport was pending.

While for the MADC, which has the responsibility of developing the airport, it's been a long waiting period with no clearances from the government. "It's been a three year endless waiting period,''said RC Sinha managing direcrtor and vice chairman of MADC. They had written to the government last week

With the proposed site being found unsuitable, the government has not taken any decision on alternative sites. Earlier, Guardian Minister Ajit Pawar had told The Indian Express that they were assessing alternative sites in the district, but there has been no progress.

"Two locations — Saswad and Wadolebolai in Wagholi—- was assessed but found to be unsuitable. We are yet to hear anything about alternative locations or cancellation of locations," said another senior officer from MADC. However, the state government officers said that though there were discussions, there was no intimation to the Civil Aviation Ministry of any change of site.

The project has been maintaining "status quo for the last three years" and there has been no movement even when the earlier target of the Union Civil Aviation Ministry had been 2011. Even as the aviation industry maintains that it would like to take responsibility, MADC has said if the industry wants to go ahead they can do it. Following protests from residents of Chakan, Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, also MADC chairman, had said no land acquisition should be carried out without the villagers' consent. Earlier MADC had submitted a report that the "land was found unsuitable for the airport as it was undulating and the airport cannot come up there,'' said a senior MADC officer.

Ajit Pawar had said protests will only ensure that no airport comes up , which would be a definite loss for the residents of Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad areas. MADC officers said they were unable to make any headway as the villagers were not interested in any more land-acquisition dialogue.