AP govt's plan to build 14 airports runs into turbulence

AP govt's plan to build 14 airports runs into turbulence

The ambitious plan of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu to build at least 14 airports across 13 districts in the state hit a roadblock with the Eastern Naval Command declining permission to build an international airport at a strategic location in Visakhapatnam.

The government was planning to create an air linkage along the long coastline, useful particularly in dealing with weather related disasters, and develop three airports–Visakhapatnam, Gannavaram (Vijayawada) and Renigunta (Tirupathi)–into international airports at par with the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport here, which was a Telugu Desam Party brainchild.

The state government has sought to build a world-class airport near Bhimili, off Visakhapatnam in an area of 1,300 acres as the present airport at Kakani Nagar is under the Navy, which has an Air Force station called the INS Dega.

Even though the Navy has given its consent for developing the existing airport into an international airport, the government was keen on developing Achyutapuram near Bhimili as it has vast tracts of government land for expansion.

Andhra Pradesh Panchayat Raj Minister Ayyanna Patrudu told reporters on the sidelines of the ongoing Assembly session here that the Naval authorities have rejected the proposal citing security concerns.

Contrary to the government’s plan to shift civilian operations out of the INS Dega, the Eastern Naval Command has said that it has no objection to the expansion of the existing airport. But there were problems in shifting their base somewhere else as INS Dega is located in a “commanding position”.

The efforts to expand the Vizag airport had begun before the state was bifurcated and it needed a world class airport of its own. Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, one of the members of the group of ministers, who played an important role in drafting the AP Reorganisation Bill, wrote to the then defence minister AK Antony urging him to shift the INS Dega and hand over the entire airport to the Airports Authority of India.

He said the Visakhapatnam airport cannot be made into an international airport without the cooperation of the Indian Navy. The state government is facing several glitches in its plans to create more airports linking its coastal industrial corridor with SEZs, petrochemical zone in Kakinada and the Vizag-Chennai Industrial corridor.

The initial proposal to build an airport near S Rayavaram near Visakhapatnam was also negated by the Navy on the ground that it cannot allow any other aircraft to fly over operational base.

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