Purandar Airport: Mohol faces uphill task to expedite project before assembly polls

At present, there are only two international flights from airport at Lohegaon, despite being a globally recognized city. Inadequate runway length and capacity prevents larger aircraft carrier landings, and hence yet no direct flights possible to US and Europe.
Lohegaon airport new terminal
Lohegaon airport new terminalThe Bridge Chronicle

Pune: Minister of State (MoS) Civil Aviation Murlidhar Mohol faces an uphill task to expedite the decade-long delayed project of Pune International Airport proposed at Purandar. This new airport is central to Maharashtra's western region's growth, is stuck in mere discussions for several years.

The announcement to develop an international airport on 2,832 hectares of land in seven villages of Purandar taluka was made by the state government in September 2016.

The central and state governments, along with the Airport Authority and the Ministry of Civil Aviation, had shown a green signal for land acquisition. Subsequently, administrative preparations were also completed alongside land acquisition and required monetary compensation.

However, the decision was delayed only for land acquisition. After objections from the villagers, proposal for alternative land was put forward. While the central government initially gave approval, it later revoked the permission.

Meanwhile, there has been a change in government in the state. Under the chairmanship of the Chief Minister, the High Power Committee conducted a comprehensive review of Purandar's land and decided to proceed with land acquisition. In February, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar emphasized the need for a new airport for Pune city, while at a program in Jejuri, Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis appealed to villages to cooperate for the planned airport in Purandar.

Following this, Industries Minister Uday Samant also made a statement. "The Chief Minister, both Deputy Chief Ministers, and all concerned will hold a joint meeting on the Purandar airport issue. A decision will be taken after considering all aspects. It is likely that a decision on the long-pending issue will be reached within the next two months," he had claimed then. Thus, discussions on the airport project once again gained momentum, but even after three months, nothing concrete has happened yet.

Meanwhile, Member of Parliament from Pune constituency, Murlidhar Mohol has now taken charge as MoS Civil Aviation. His appointment as civial aviation minister has again raised hopes for resolving the long-standing airport issue.

Current challenges related to the airport:

- Only two international flights from Pune, despite being a globally recognized city

- Expansion of existing Lohegaon Airport is necessary

- Inadequate runway length and capacity prevents larger aircraft carrier landings, and hence yet no direct flights possible to US and Europe

- The construction of a new terminal for passengers has been completed, but it has not yet opened for passengers

- Shortage of space at the airport, resulting in only ten parking bays

- Shortage of parking bays reduces capacity of air traffic at the airport

- Inadequate Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) barracks for additional recruits

- No progress regarding acquisition of 13 acres of land for airport expansion

- Lack of CAT III modern equipment to assist aircraft in low visibility conditions, leading to cancellations or delays during rain

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