India is one of the fastest growing aviation markets in the world. By 2024, it is expected to become the third largest aviation market in the world, after the US and China. Many of the country’s airports have either reached saturation levels or are expected to surpass optimal capacity utilisation levels within a decade. The government has rolled out ambitious plans for capacity augmentation of airport infrastructure and there are plans to create 100 additional airports by 2024. It has committed investments to the tune of Rs 1 trillion to build and upgrade airport infrastructure in the next five years. Some of these upcoming airports may be bid out on the public-private partnership (PPP) model to leverage the strengths of the private sector. Further, there has also been increasing focus on developing airports that are not only smart but also sustainable.
Upcoming airport projects
The central government has taken a number of initiatives towards greenfield airport infrastructure development in the country. In the past two-three years, several airport development projects have been awarded.
Delayed by years due to land acquisition and environmental issues, the development and operations of the Navi Mumbai international airport was awarded to GVK Power and Infrastructure Limited in October 2017. The project will be implemented in four phases at a cost of Rs 167 billion. The airport will be able to cater to 60 million passengers per annum (mppa) by 2030 when the entire project is expected to be completed. In August 2019, L&T Construction won the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract for the project. The work involves cut and fill works, terminal works including departure and arrival forecourts, airfield development works that include a 3,700 metre long runway, apron systems, airfield ground lighting and other facilities, landside facilities (roads and multi-level car parking), utilities and support facilities. The first phase of the project is expected to be completed by 2020.
The proposed Jewar airport in Greater Noida, the second airport in the national capital region, will be India’s largest airport upon completion. The airport will have six runways, similar to some of the world’s largest airports. It will be developed by the Uttar Pradesh government on a PPP basis. The project will be developed in four phases from 2020 to 2040, at a cost of Rs 300 billion. The first phase of the project, which is expected to be completed by 2023, will have a capacity of 12 mppa and two runways. Additional runways will be added in the subsequent phases. Four firms – Delhi airport operator Delhi International Airport Limited, Zurich airport operator Flughafen Zurich AG, Adani Enterprises Limited and Anchorage Infrastructure Investments – submitted technical bids for the project on October 30, 2019. The project developer is expected to be finalised in January 2020.
In February 2019, the government approved the development of a new greenfield airport in Hirasar district, about 28 km from Rajkot in Gujarat, at an estimated cost of Rs 14.05 billion. The greenfield airport is expected to make use of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind energy. Once developed, the new airport will help in decongesting the existing airport in Rajkot. Dilip Buildcon has won the contract for constructing the new airport at a cost of Rs 5.7 billion on an EPC basis. The company will undertake detailed designing of the greenfield airport, engage in the construction of runways, taxiways, turning pads, drainage systems, fire station, commission airfield ground lighting system, and visual aids for navigation and bird hazard reduction systems.
Other key upcoming projects include Purandar airport (Pune), Bhogapuram airport (Visakhapatnam), Dholera airport (Ahmedabad) and Dagardarthi airport (Nellore). Further, several airports including Delhi, Bengaluru and Hyderabad are expected to undergo upgradation and expansion in the next five years.
Building airports of the future
There have been tremendous advancements in the materials and technologies used in airport construction over the years. Today, more and more airports are moving towards the use of modern technologies and sustainable designs that will help in reducing not only construction costs but also operating costs. The focus is on materials and designs that can work in a smaller area and with multiple functionalities.
Airports are looking for roofing solutions that are not only durable and cost-effective, but leak proof, aesthetic, soundpoof and energy efficient as well. Airports such as those in Mumbai, Vadodara, Chandigarh, Tirupati and Visakhapatnam are using advanced multi-zip roofing systems that are lightweight, screwless and offer high durability. Further, the use of digital design and planning platforms is also gaining ground. The Airports Authority of India has identified Building Information Modeling (BIM) as the design and planning platform for construction of the new integrated terminal building of the Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport in Guwahati. The BIM solution will help in collaborative decision-making at each stage of project development – design, fabrication, construction, and operations and maintenance. The cloud-enabled work sharing also lets team members see each other’s work and communicate with one another in real time.
The building of green airports is on the rise. As India aims to reduce its carbon emissions, the use of sustainable designs and practices is no longer a choice but an imperative for airports. Kochi airport has already achieved the feat of being the first fully solar-powered airport in the world. The airport is using renewable energy for all its daily operations from powering conveyor belts to its digital systems. The integrated terminal of Vadodara airport has also been constructed using bricks made of fly ash. The airport is working to switch to solar energy for its daily operations.
Several other airports such as the Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru international airports have taken several green initiatives. Delhi airport has been at the forefront in monitoring noise pollution and has taken several measures to mitigate the problem including the deployment of an automatic aircraft noise monitoring system. Mumbai international airport has adopted new technologies such as the use of dichroic lenses, light pipes, light catcher domes, etc. to eliminate the use of artificial lighting inside the terminal during the day. At the Kempegowda international airport in Bengaluru, the second runway will be powered by LED airfield lighting, making it India’s first and only such runway. The runway is expected to become operational by end 2019. The technology will help in lowering maintenance and power costs, while ensuring higher levels of safety, availability and operational efficiency.
The new terminal building at the country’s highest commercial airport, Kushok Bakula Rimpochee airport in Leh, will also be built with a plethora of innovative features. The terminal will have a double-insulated roofing and wall system. There will be LED lighting with sensors, a solar power system and a sewage treatment plant in line with the objective of enhancing infrastructure in an eco-friendly manner.
The country is going through major infrastructural development. The aviation sector is growing at a rapid pace and modern airports are being planned. Modern methods and innovative technologies are needed for fuelling this growth and creating airports that are smarter, greener, and more agile and revenue efficient. PPPs for airport development can play a crucial role in building airports with world-class infrastructure and speed up the adoption of advanced technologies. However, challenges such as delays in land acquisition, lengthy dispute resolution processes, long bidding processes, etc. will have to be overcome for the successful implementation of these projects. w