CIDCO burning candles on both ends to meet the airport’s 2019 deadline

Despite working under a tight deadline, the next eight months will determine whether chief minister Devendra Fadnavis’s plans of seeing the maiden flight taking off at the Navi Mumbai International airport by 2019 can be a possibility. With the deadline nearing, CIDCO has tough task in their hands of relocating project affected persons (PAPs) and clearing the land by flattening Ulwe hill and diverting Ulwe river by December-end. This will win them art least one more year for the develooment of the airport.

By December 2019, the government wants one runway (3.7 kilometers long) of the airport to be ready. Currently, 40% of the villagers have been shifted and 36% of the hill has been levelled. Both these tasks have been closely linked. On April 24, 2017, a Rs. 2,033 crores work order for the hill operation and diversion was issued. However, not much work could be done due to the loss of several months to monsoon and then to the protests by villagers in October.  CIDCO officials now plan on going full throttle with the work to meet the deadline.

The government wants one runway (3.7km-long) of the airport ready by December 2019 for the maiden flight. As of now 40% of shifting of villagers has been done and 36% of the hill has been levelled; both the works are closely linked. A Rs 2,033-crore work order for the hill operation and diversion of river was issued on April 24, 2017, but not much work could be done as several months were lost—first to monsoon and then to protests by villagers in October. Now, Cidco officials plan pulling out all stops to meet the deadline.

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Superintending engineer of the project Sanjay Dahedar said “We have already undertaken the biggest blast, disgorging 41,000 cubic metres of rocky material 10 days ago. But now, it is time for bigger blasts. We have to blast, cut and level the hill at 5.5m and hand over the land by December-end. The daily blasting exercise ensures 1 lakh cubic metre is taken out.” The concessionaire will then level the ground to 8m for the airport to be developed.

Though the work for river diversion is on, the waterbody may not change course till the next monsoon. “This monsoon, Ulwe river will continue to flow from south to north via the lowland of the hill. But next rains, it will be diverted to the west, along the southern part of the hill and have a new course of 3km into Moha creek,” he added.

As for CIDCO’s rental scheme, which provides for rent to families for 18 months – during which they are building homes, it has seen little success. Though it was started a little early, only 40%  families have opted for the scheme. “Two of the 10 villages in the core airport area of 1,160 hectares are expected to empty soon. Varshchaowle and Waghivali Wada villages abut a portion of the hill. Waghivali Wada is almost empty with a few families remaining due to marriage ceremonies,” he added.

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Surabhi Mahadevan

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