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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Work on 12 new airports likely to start soon: Patel

Construction of 12 greenfield airports in different parts of the country is likely to start soon with the government granting them approval, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said today. He also announced that the new integrated terminal of the Indira Gandhi International Airport here, which would enable domestic and international operations from under a single roof, would be inaugurated on July 3.

Addressing an infrastructure conference organised by the Planning Commission, Patel said "the real test for the Indian aviation sector is to create more (infrastructure) facilities ... Approvals have been granted to 12 new greenfield airports in different parts of the country."These include two aerotropolis projects at Durgapur in West Bengal and Ludhiana in Punjab.

He added that the government's policy to allow 100 per cent foreign direct investment in the construction of greenfield airports was a key factor which was attracting huge investments in aviation infrastructure.Several leading airport operators and related companies had invested or formed joint ventures with Indian partners in these projects, Patel said, adding that Indian firms had also started participating in global bidding for airport and aviation infrastructure projects.

"I am sure that Airports Authority of India will also be bidding for many international projects in the future," he said. Noting that land acquisition was a major area of concern, Patel said: "We will have to closely work with the states because airports cannot be made 100-200 km away from the cities. They have to be in close proximity."

Observing that India had several cities with large populations which were not connected by air, he said there was a huge potential for developing greenfield airports. In this context, he said the potential was reflected in the fact that in 2004, India had 50 operational airports which grew to over 90 in five years.

The Minister also pointed out that the penetration of civil aviation in India was among the lowest, with the country having a ratio of 2.89 million passenger per aircraft compared with 0.05 million in the US.

Maintaining that an airport was "faster and cheaper" to build than road or rail heads, Patel said this was "a challenge as well as an opportunity" for domestic and foreign investors to come forward.

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