Representatives of air travellers associations, industry, IT and tours and travel sector criticised what they called ‘unilateral decision’ of the Indian Navy to bar the movement of civilian aircraft at the Visakhapatnam International Airport for at least five hours a day.
The decision, which was taken without consulting all stakeholders, will have a far-reaching effect on the growth of the ninth largest city in India. Apart from having a direct impact on the airline operators, the move would indirectly hamper the growth of Visakhapatnam, they told a media conference here on Monday.
Vizag Development Council (VDC) president O. Naresh Kumar said that construction of the Bhogapuram Airport was delayed and even if it was taken up now, it would take at least four years for completion. The Navy was already building the Naval Alternative Operating Base (NAOB) at an estimated cost of Rs.10,000 core at Rambilli in the district and there were plans to revive the airstrip at Badangi in Vizianagaram district. An airstrip could be built at Rambilli and the one at Badangi revived to meet the training and practice needs of the Indian Navy. The presence of oil tankers of the HPCL near Vizag Airport could also pose a threat to military aircraft used to train defence personnel. Developing an airstrip would require around Rs.300 crore and the exclusive airstrips could serve the defence training requirements better as they are away from the centre of the city.
Blaming the State government for the delay in the construction of the proposed Bhogapuram Airport and the Central government for failing to think of alternative plans instead of derailing the economy of Vizag, Mr. Naresh Kumar said that an airstrip could be developed exclusively for the Navy within six months.
AP Air Travellers Association president Y. Sivasagar Rao while agreeing that the security of the nation was of paramount importance, it should not be at the cost of development of Visakhapatnam. He felt that since there was still five months time, alternative plans could be made.
A.P. Chambers of Commerce and Industry Federation president G. Sambasiva Rao said that round-the-clock operation at Vizag was achieved after years of efforts by various associations and it would now be rendered waste.
APATA vice-president D.S. Varma said that the Navy should consider the lean period during the afternoon when there were a few scheduled civilian flights. This would ensure least disruption of existing schedules till alternatives measures were put in place.Past president of APATA S. Vijay Kumar, president of IT Association of A.P. R.L. Narayana, its past president Ravi Eswarapu and CREDAI chairman Koteswara Rao were among those who spoke.
35 civilian flights
A total of 35 civilian flights (70 movements) operate from Vizag Airport. The military aircraft movements are around 130 a day and these are expected to go up to 200 with the induction of MiG-29K/KuB detachments at INS Dega.
The flights to be affected due to the restrictions are: IndiGo -4; SpiceJet – 3; Air India – 5; Air Asia -2; Jet Airways 1 and SriLankan – 1.
Source: The Hindu