Hubli airport expansion stalled by electric poles

Over the past year, the continued presence of as many as 100 electric poles have knocked the wind out of plans by the Airport Authority of India (AAI) to expand Hubli airport.

Officially, the Rs 145 crore airport expansion is scheduled to be completed in 30 months. Unofficially, the project has been stalled due to persistent delays in the shifting of utility assets from the 600 acres of land in question.

According to officials at Hubli Electricity Company (Hescom), a deposit of Rs 6.9 crore has to be made to ensure that they can complete the removals at the earliest. Officials complained that the government has neglected to pay the deposit over the course of the last 12 months.

At the other end, however, Hubli airport director, K M Basavaraju blamed Hescom for the delays. “At present we are moving forward on schedule,” he said. “The architectural design of the expanded airport is all but ready and we are going to call for tenders soon. The main problem is that the land is not free of encumbrances to enable the extended runway to be built.”

According to Basavaraju, repeated reminders to Hescom have not yielded results. He claimed that despite several discussions with the deputy commissioner and the civic agencies about the problem, the issue is far from resolved. Sources in the government suggest that a lack of funds within Hescom have stalled removals of the electric poles.

The managing director of Hescom, Rajendra Cholan, said that the Company is doing all it can to clear the land. He added that Hescom had, in fact, given orders to clear the poles last month at a meeting with the deputy commissioner. “The general practice is that Hescom gives the approval for moving the utility lines, with the implementing agency taking the onus of clearing them. This time, on account of the requests from the deputy commissioner, we are taking on the responsibility,” he said.

Sources said that Hescom has already cleared nearly 50 poles under the emergency works exemption clause of the Karnataka Transparency in Public Procurements Act. “But the chunk of the shifting has to be done by calling for tenders, as the costs exceed more than Rs one lakh,” Cholan said.

The Hubli airport expansion plans were approved in January 2013 after the AAI and the State Government signing a memorandum.

Comments (+)