Tuesday 18 June 2024

News Analysed, Opinions Expressed

Infrastructure | Transport

Mopa controversy continues despite central nod


The centre has approved an international airport in Goa, but not to the satisfaction of the ruling coalition in the tourist state here of which the Bharatiya Janata Party is a major component.

The announcement from Delhi regarding the cabinet approving the site of Mopa, a village on Goa-Maharashtra border, has thus received mixed reaction here while lobbying for and against the proposal is expected to continue even further.

Incidentally, the announcement came while all ministers and officials of the civil aviation ministry including union minister Sharad Yadav are presently attending a conference here, which began at Fort Aguada Beach Resorts yesterday.

"I am not averse to the idea of having the international airport in Goa. But we can get the site changed if we desire", says chief minister Francisco Sardinha. He plans to have a breakfast meeting with Yadav tomorrow morning to discuss the matter in detail.

While the existing Dabolim airport, which operates from the naval airport since liberation, is located in the port town of Vasco, Mopa is located towards the extreme North. Sardinha learnt to be in favour of having even the new airport in the South.

"Mopa is approved by the joint committee of the ministry and the Airport Authority of India after considering its viability in terms of 4500 acres of flat land, 3200 metres of airstrip area and the location adjacent to the national highway and a railway station with no vegetation or habitation", points out Jitendra Deshprabhu, the local Congress MLA.

In fact his supporters from Pernem taluka welcomed the news yesterday evening by lighting firecrackers in several villages. Deshprabhu looked relieved as the ongoing controversy over the site location for the last three years was finally over and the place was finalised, knowing little that the controversy still exists.

Manohar Parrikar, the BJP leader, has however been raising a fundamental question whether such an airport would be financially viable and doubts whether any private firm would come forward to construct the airport worth Rs 2000 crore on build, own, operate and transfer basis.

He has no objection to his central leaders clearing the mega project but strongly feels that the response for the global tenders would be negative. "You will need minimum 30 flights to land against five to six landing here on average, except during the tourist season", points out Parrikar, an influential person here in the coalition government.

Deshprabhu however feels that the airport would not only fulfil the needs of Goa but also southern Maharashtra including Sindhudurg district - earmarked as the tourism district - as well as North Canara district of Karnataka. He has been lobbying for Mopa while opposing the Maharashtra proposal for the airport in Sindhudurg.

Though Maharashtra government had even acquired land for such an airport just across the Goa border while former chief minister Narayan Rane belonging to the Shiv Sena-BJP government had even performed a bhoomi pujan to begin the work. But the proposal did not get a nod from the centre.

The Mopa site was however selected by the joint committee of the ministry and the AAI in March last year, followed by green signal from the then local Congress government in October. The matter however came before the cabinet only after the defence ministry gave its NOC last month.

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