Plan for 11 airstrips goes awry

Plan for 11 airstrips goes awry

Government realises that mere Rs 4 cr for each project is too meagre

Plan for 11 airstrips goes awry

In 2008-09 budget, the project to construct 11 airstrips was announced and allocated Rs 4 crore each. The responsibility to implement the project was entrusted to Karnataka Housing Board (KHB) with the assistance of the Airport Authority of India (AAI).

Now, it has dawned on the Government that the project is not feasible to implement at just Rs 4 crore as conceived originally. Airstrips are planned to be developed at Davanagere, Raichur, Chitradurga, Udupi, Kushalnagar, Gokarna, Bagalkot, Haveri, Kollegal, Gadag and Chikmagalur towns. The aim was to attract investors to small towns, besides giving an impetus to the tourism industry.

If an airstrip is constructed in all these towns, the Government had said, the State will have air connectivity for every 100 kms -- though only small aircrafts can land on these airstrips.

“When the project was originally conceived, the Government was under the impression that airstrips can be built by just constructing a runway. It had neither consulted the AAI nor taken expert opinion while formulating the plan.

There are many technical issues involved in constructing airstrips. The project was approved and announced without assessing the feasibility,” officials pointed out.
So was the reason the project has not made much progress in the last two years.

However, the AAI has given clearance for five airstrips -- Chikmagalur, Kodagu, Davanagere, Raichur and Kushalnagar. For others, it is still examining the proposals, sources said.

inimum Rs 25 crore

As per the expert opinion obtained by the Government recently, each airstrip costs a minimum of Rs 25 crore, including the land acquisition and civil works.

The budgetary allocation made is just Rs 4 crore. “At the same time, the Government is not in a position to invest nearly Rs 300 crore on the project from its pocket,” officials said.

Hence, officials said, a new plan has been worked out to implement the project under the annuity model in two phases. The Infrastructure Development department is likely to take over the responsibility of the project development from the KHB.

Under the annuity model, the Government will pay the contractor who invests his money on the project, in installments. Efforts to take up the project under the PPP model, have failed as these airstrips are not revenue earners for private companies to invest their money.

Faulty plan

* 11 airstrips project announced in 2008-09, but no progress made so far
*  Govt has now realised that its plan is not feasible
* Rs 4 crore allocation made for each airstrip, while actual cost was Rs 25 crore
*  Govt now planning to take it up under annuity basis in phased manner

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