CIVILIAN UNUSED AIR STRIPS ACROSS THE COUNTRY TO BE DEVELOPED TO PROVIDE MORE REGIONAL CONNECTIVITY

The Minister for Civil Aviation, Shri Praful Patel has said that the Ministry of Civil Aviation will soon be holding a Conference with all the State Governments for developing some of the 300 airstrips across the country which are lying unused as of now. The Minister was speaking at an International Conference on “Meeting India’s Infrastructure Needs with Public-Private-Partnerships: the International Experience and Perspective.”

Shri Patel said that this is being done to provide greater regional connectivity. The Ministry is considering bidding out the airstrips in blocks for development as it may not be feasible to do it individually. The Minister also added that the Ministry was actively considering a cess in the future for viability gap funding to support the unviable airports across the country. It is yet to be finalized on how this cess is to be worked out.

To further increase connectivity the Government is looking towards setting up of “Merchant Greenfield Airports” which would be private airports built on privately owned lands within permissible civil aviation parameters. This, he said, would solve the problem of land acquisition which is a major hurdle in building infrastructure projects in the country. The Minister also added that due to the unprecedented growth in the Civil Aviation sector there would be need for building secondary airports in non-metro cities also in the next 5-10 years.

The aviation sector in India has the potential for growing by 25% annually in the next ten years. In the year 2006 the growth was 50%. This had created a need for urgent and immediate growth in infrastructure. The Minister said that it is to deal with this kind of growth in the sector that the Government is looking towards Public-Private-Partnerships so that infrastructure can be built in the shortest possible time while maintaining the best of international standards.

Shri Patel added that in the future the Government will have much lesser role to play in the airports of the country other than providing the regulatory framework. In this context, he added that the Airport Economic Regulatory Authority (AERA) Bill will be introduced in the Parliament in this Budget session and the Regulatory Authority is expected to be in place in 2007 itself.

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