Meerut airport grounded, UP feels Jewar ready for take-off

Maulshree Seth

The Uttar Pradesh government's decision to drop the plan to develop an airport to be named after Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar in Partapur, about 16 km from Meerut, is being seen as an attempt to save the prospects of another proposed international airport in western Uttar Pradesh — the Taj International Airport in Jewar.

With things moving in a positive direction for Mayawati's dream project in Jewar, Meerut was seen as a hurdle that could have diluted the case for Jewar because of the distance between the two airports being less than 100 km. Jewar is currently awaiting clearance due to its proximity to the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi.

The official reason given for cancelling the Meerut plan is problems related to land acquisition.

Sources in the government say some of the big players had even started showing interest in the Meerut airport, which had been given in-principle approval by the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation.

The international airport in Jewar is one of the dream projects of the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, falling along the route of the ambitious Yamuna Expressway project.

As per rules, no airport can be constructed within 150 km of an existing airport, while less than 100 km separates Jewar and IGI. However, after a meeting of the Group of Ministers over the issue about three months ago, the state government feels that the chances of Jewar getting a clearance have increased.

BSP MPs have taken their case for the airport to both Union Minister for Civil Aviation Praful Patel as well as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Even Mayawati has made a personal appeal to the Centre several times to clear the airport, as it would "fuel the growth of Uttar Pradesh".

While the Meerut airport may have been sacrificed for the cause of one at Jewar, Yashpal Singh, Chief Town Planner for Meerut Development Authority, says the decision was taken after a feasibility study showed that the project might face problems related to land acquisition.

There is an existing airstrip at Meerut and the plan was to upgrade it to the international level.

An additional 139.14 hectares was earmarked in the masterplan for this upgradation. Not only this, the request for qualification cum request for proposal for selection of consultant for the project was also floated before it was decided to shelve the entire project.