ESG sceptical of Zaidi heading crash probe

Environment Support Group (ESG) trustee Arthur Pereira who has been opposing the expansion of airport since 1995, says the DGCA is a Indian governmental regulatory body for civil aviation whose duty is to ensure safety.

“With the incident clearly pointing at possibilities of DGCA’s lapses how can one expect an unbiased report from a committee constituted by the accused,” Pereira asks.  The Inquiry committee is headed by the Director General of Civil Aviation, Dr Naseem Zaidi. Pereira insists on a Joint Parliamentary Inquiry Committee to inquire into the causes for the crash.

He recalls that ESG had filed a series of PILs to stop the construction of the second runway in Mangalore airport on grounds that the design did not conform to the most basic national and international standards of airport design.  ESG had also written to Dr Zaidi in 2004, then Chairman (Addl. Charge) and Joint Secretary, Airport Authority of India (AAI), informing him about the need to comply with the Supreme Court direction that Airport Authorities will have to comply with all applicable laws and environmental norms.

Irony

“ESG did not get any response then from Dr Zaidi. It is ironical that he is heading the probe committee,” Pereira said.  “The mishap would have not happened if at all there was a little more stop way. There are absolutely no emergency approach roads and hence the fire fighters found it very difficult to reach the spot,” Pereira said.

Obstinate act

Even though alternative sites existed, the authorities expanded the airport “obstinately”, yielding to pressures from business, real estate and hotel lobbies who benefited immensely from an airport at Bajpe.

“Politicians keen to make the expansion a part of their legacy overlooked all concerns raised. Even at the existing Bajpe alternative sites existed to expand the airport, that conformed with most safety norms, but this site was not pursued as it would affect large landholders and influential people. Consequently, nothing whatsoever was done to respond to the concerns ESG raised about the risks involved in the 2nd runway,” Pereira added

‘Major mishap averted’

“If the plane had crashed 15 minutes earlier and about 30 meters ahead from the mishap spot, it would have crashed on the running Rajdhani express chugging on Konkan railway causing a bigger tragedy of unimaginable magnitude,” says Pereira.

A highly placed Airport Authority of India official, denying Pereira’s allegations said the inquiry committee will function as an independent body detached from DGCA in all ways. “The committee cannot blame the pilot without any proof to hush up errors of DGCA or Air India in this case specifically because the said pilot is not an Indian. The issue if taken seriously by the pilot’s nation, can have dire implications,” he said.

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