Sunday, April 08, 2018

Confusion threatens to ‘crash-land’ infrastructure dreams

Kochi: While Kerala is poised to become a role model for other states with a new air traffic culture, a closer look into the aviation sector reveals a picture of confusion. And of how ill-equipped the state is in developing its aviation infrastructure in tune with growth.

Consider this: Even after the state government's nod to the Cochin International Airport Ltd (CIAL) to hold pre-feasibility studies for constructing airstrips in nine locations, the announcement has brought little cheer to the industry. Reason: Lack of cohesion among various agencies concerned.

A senior officer close to CIAL said the decision was taken without much homework and consultation. A few years ago, feasibility studies for airstrips in Idukki and Wayanad were conducted by the Industrial Finance Corporation of India (IFCI) and Knight Frank India (KFI) respectively under the aegis of the Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation.But the initiative reached nowhere.

Express queries regarding the projects to officers with various departments elicited nothing but contradictions. KSIDC managing director M Beena said it had conducted a preliminary study at the proposed hill stations during the tenure of the previous UDF Government and submitted reports despite stiff opposition to the projects.

But the office of the principal secretary in charge of aviation said they have not received any such reports from the KSIDC. Asked if the state government sought CIAL’s view before entrusting the work with the airport company, Transport Department (Aviation) principal secretary Biswanath Sinha said the government need not consult with the airport firm in which the state government is a major stakeholder for every decision.
Jacob Philip, a Doha-based aviation analyst, said the state government has no proper vision relating to the development of aviation infrastructure despite the state having the highest number of international airports — four — in the country.

“For instance, the decision to award the feasibility study contract to IFCI and KFI by avoiding state-owned KITCO, which conducted the feasibility study for the Cochin Airport, was an ill-conceived move,” he said.

When there is a state-owned agency to hold such studies, Jacob said, there is no need for global tendering.

“Besides, the lack of expertise at KSIDC was visible from the tender document it prepared for the airstrips and the proposed Sabarimala Greenfield Airport. The PQs (pre-qualifications) were off-the-mark and unusually high, with many Indian consultancies with core-experience in airports and aviation being prevented from participating. It came as no surprise that a whopping fee of `4.55 crore was sanctioned by the state as consulting fee for Louis Berger to complete the study for the Sabarimala airport when the study can be done for under `1 crore,” he said.
Further, the decision to thrust the pre-feasibility study upon CIAL is in stark contrast to the  government’s earlier decision to call competitive tenders for the same work even as KITCO had offered to do the study, Jacob said.
08/04/18 Dhinesh Kallungal/New Indian Express