VISAKHAPATNAM: The ground is now fully cleared for the launch of the much-delayed Visakhapatnam International Airport project. The Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister’s Office has written to the Prime Minister’s Office to request that Narendra Modi lay the foundation stone, possibly virtually, for the construction of the new airport during his visit to the port city of Visakhapatnam on November 12.
But the PMO has not included it in Modi’s itinerary, official sources have said. The development of the new international airport in public-private partnership mode in Bhogapuram, 40 km northeast of Visakhapatnam, was first mentioned in 2014, after the bifurcation of the State because the existing one in the city belongs to the Indian Navy.
For various reasons, the project has not taken off for more than eight years. The original plan was grand as the state government wanted to build an aerotropolis which would include aviation-related manufacturing units, an aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility, a research center and development and test labs, multimodal logistics, exhibition and conference. centres, leisure and entertainment facilities, aviation education and training facilities.
The plan also called for the development of the airport with “one runway, parallel taxiway and other infrastructure capable of serving the largest aircraft in the world”. The previous Telugu Desam government started the process of acquiring over 2,700 acres of land in the Bhogapuram area for airport development, but it got stuck in litigation all these years over land of 50 acres right in the center of the proposed project where the trail was supposed to arrive.
The PA High Court last week finally dismissed the farmers’ petitions against the land acquisition, clearing the way for the development of the project. In 2018, the previous government of Chandrababu Naidu selected GMR Airports Limited as the project developer after canceling the bid previously won by the Airports Authority of India.
The YSR Congress, then in opposition, opposed the handing over of the project to GMR but, as soon as it took power, signed a concession agreement with the same entity in June 2020, modifying the scope of the project. The AP Airports Development Corporation Limited Board had felt that the proposed Aerocity and Aviation Academy might not be feasible and communicated the decision to the state government.
As a result, the other components of the plan were dropped and only the international airport would now be developed. Therefore, the state government decided to keep 500 of the 2,703 acres of land acquired for the aerotropolis and only hand over 2,203 acres to GMR for the development of the greenfield international airport.
According to GMR sources, the INR 3,000 crore project involves the design, construction, financing, construction, development, operation and maintenance of the greenfield international airport for 40 years which could be extended 20 additional years by international tender.
A special purpose vehicle GMR Visakhapatnam International Airport Limited (GVIAL) has been launched to support the development. In line with the latest development model, GMR offered to pay INR 303 PPF (Per Passenger Fee) to the state government. Passenger numbers are projected to reach nine million by 2036.