Govt to revive controversial Ballari greenfield airport project

Infra development dept inks supplementary pact with promoter

The State government has decided to revive the controversial Krishnadevaraya greenfield airport project in Ballari, which was planned and designed by the previous BJP government.

The State Infrastructure Development Department (IDD) will soon be signing a supplementary Project Development Agreement (PDA) with the promoter MARG Krishnadevaraya Airport Pvt Ltd  for reviving the project. The IDD has also decided to amend the original PDA signed in 2010, enabling the promoter to take up the project. The Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board (KIADB) has already initiated the process to hand over 892 acres of land to the company.

The IDD forfeited Rs four crore deposited by MARG as bank guarantee in 2010, the validity of which had expired in January 2015. The company has recently deposited Rs four crores afresh with the IDD as bank guarantee under the project.

“The government has decided to revive the project as the promoters evinced interest to implement it. Almost all issues pertaining to land acquisition have been sorted out and the project work will commence soon,” Minister for Infrastructure Development R Roshan Baig said.

The proposed airport, designed under public-private partnership, was considered a pet project of Janardhana Reddy, who is currently facing illegal mining charges. The promoter was supposed to develop the airport at an estimated cost of Rs 110 crores, while the State government would provide the required land free of cost, as per the original PDA. The promoter was to complete the project in 30 months from January 2010.

The project, however, got embroiled in a controversy over land acquisition as a section of farmers took up agitation against it. The Congress, which was in the opposition party at that time, too had strongly opposed the project and supported the farmers’ agitation.

The Karnataka High Court in 2012 quashed acquisition of about 250 acres land, dealing a blow to the project.
Sources in the IDD said though the KIADB subsequently pursued the acquisition process and managed to acquire almost the entire land as per the court directions, Siddaramaiah-led Congress government didn’t evince interest in the project, initially.
But the government changed its mind in May, this year, and gave a second opportunity to MARG to renew the bank guarantee and the company agreed, the sources added.

Amendments
The sources said some of the operative points of the original PDA such as time frame for procurement of the site and completion of the project have now become invalid. Hence, it has been decided to sign a supplementary PDA with the company.

Roshan Baig further said there is lot of demand for air connectivity to Ballari. Currently, a lot of people who want to reach Ballari from Bengaluru are flying to Hubballi and then reaching Ballari by road. Mining activity is slowly reviving in the district and it will further increase the demand for air connectivity, he added.

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