Almost two decades after the plan for a second airport in the National Capital Region (NCR) was conceived, work on the project is expected to get underway in February next year. Keeping in mind the growth in demand, the Uttar Pradesh government has set an aggressive deadline for completion of the Jewar airport project, targetting operationalisation of its first phase by 2023.
Implementation of the Rs 29,561-cr project would take place in four phases, with the last phase scheduled for completion by 2040. When fully operational, the Jewar airport in Greater Noida would be able to handle over 160 million passengers per annum (mppa), making it the largest airport in India. While the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport in New Delhi has a present capacity of around 70 mppa, it is going to increase to
110 mppa once the ongoing project for its expansion is completed.
In what marks a first for the aviation sector since private investment in airports was allowed in 2006, a foreign operator, Switzerland's Zurich Airport International AG (ZIA), has bagged the contract to develop and operate the Jewar airport, beating the likes of GMR Infra, Adani Enterprises and Fairfax Holdings. Outbidding its rivals by a significant margin, ZIA quoted a per passenger fee (PPF)-the critical criterion in the bidding process-of `401. Apart from operating the Zurich Airport in Switzerland, ZIA runs the Curacao International airport in Carribean Islands, the Bogota airport in Colombia, two airports in Chile and four in Brazil.
India remains one of ZIA's strategic investment markets. It held a 17% stake in the Bengaluru Airport until 2017, when it exited the project. It also bid for the six Airports Authority of India (AAI) airports that went under the hammer in February.
Commenting on the entry of a foreign player in the sector, Satyan Nayar, secretary general, Association of Private Airport Operators, says, "it will help bring in investments and international experience, leading to greater competition among operators. It also reflects the attractiveness of the Indian aviation sector despite hiccups like Jet Airways."
In all, 1334 hectares of land is needed for the first phase of the project, of which 82% has already been acquired. The total compensation to be distributed among landowners is Rs 3,167 crore, out of which Rs 2,546.95 cr has been distributed, according to the state government. The Yamuna Expressway Industrial Development Authority (YIEDA), the nodal agency for the project, has earmarked more than 5,000 hectares of land for the facility.
Experts have stressed the need for speedy acquisition of land by the UP government if the project is to meet timelines. "It is important that all external connectivity issues are addressed on war footing and an unencumbered site for development is made available to the concessionaire at the earliest," says Jagannarayan Padmanabhan of CRISIL Infrastructure Advisory.