Saturday, June 05, 2021

What’s the government doing to Delhi’s Safdarjung airport?

The central government is in the eye of a storm for its decision to go ahead with the construction of the Rs 20,000-crore Central Vista project during the Covid pandemic.

There’s another construction project quietly in the works in the capital that’s far removed from public outcry: the civil aviation ministry’s “combined operational offices” at Safdarjung airport.

These new offices will house the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India, the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau, the Bureau of Civil Aviation and Security, and the Airports Authority of India, in one building, in a built-up area of 70,940 sq metres. The project is estimated to cost Rs 302 crore.

Safdarjung airport, located 11.6 km from the Indira Gandhi International Airport, currently houses several offices, like that of the AAI in Rajiv Gandhi Bhavan, and operates its runway primarily for VVIPs. Its view has been blocked off from the flyover on Aurobindo Marg, with fencing covering construction activities on the grounds.

The construction of the new offices is currently underway, according to the website of the builder, NKG Infrastructure. At least 150 workers are employed on site, the project notes state.

The workers, hired from surrounding areas, are provided “temporary shelters”, in accordance with the project clearance document. Much like the Central Vista, the project was categorised as essential work during the pandemic lockdown, and construction work continued.

The proposal for “operational buildings” at Safdarjung airport was first introduced under the Manmohan Singh government in 2010. The plan was for the project to span a plot area of 25,947 sq metres with a built-up area of 37,756.14 sq metres. It received environmental clearance in 2012.

In April 2018, the Narendra Modi government filed a request for environmental clearance to expand the original 2012 plan to a built-up area of 70,940 sq metres.

The new project received clearance in January 2020. A letter from Dr Subrata Bose, a scientist at the environment ministry, was sent to the deputy general manager of engineering, civil, at AAI on January 7. The letter stated that “part construction of basement” had been done at the site in accordance with the clearance granted in 2012.

04/06/21 Sashikala VP/Newslaundry

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