Calcutta, Sept. 11: Civil aviation minister Praful Patel’s statement today that there is no immediate need for a second airport in Calcutta has triggered howls of protest from the state government.
“If you ask me, Dum Dum airport, if developed, can carry on for some more years. There is place for expansion. A second airport in Calcutta will be viable only in another 25 years,” Patel said.
State chief secretary Amit Kiran Deb challenged the view. “We have done a feasibility study and there is an immediate need for the second airport. Beyond a certain point, Dum Dum airport cannot be developed,” he said.
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has been keen on a second airport.
Patel said that every day Mumbai handles 650 aircraft movements and Delhi 570, compared with 200 in Calcutta.
Although there is no enthusiasm in the civil aviation ministry about a second airport here, Patel said it would not object to the state’s proposal. “We will support the endeavour but it must be done keeping Dum Dum airport operational.”
Patel is expected to meet Bhattacharjee later this month. Sources said he would discuss modernisation of Dum Dum, which would include building a third runway.
Civil aviation secretary Ajay Prasad said if another runway was built, it would double the capacity, indicating that a second airport might not be required now.
The chief secretary argued: “Even if a third runway is built, an additional aircraft can land and take off. But what about the terminal space' Bangalore and Hyderabad have two airports.”
Deb cited the instance of Dubai where the airport has 19 terminals with plans to add 17 but, in spite of that, a new airport is being constructed.
In contrast, the Rs 2,080-crore modernisation plan for Dum Dum only envisages expanding the international terminal and a second domestic terminal.
Relations between Patel and the state government haven’t exactly been cordial as the civil aviation minister wanted to bring an Indian private party into Dum Dum’s modernisation, but the chief minister did not.