Conceptualised in 2009, the Dholera greenfield international airport is a state government-driven project that will be developed alongside the Dholera Special Investment Region. It will be the second international airport in Gujarat after Ahmedabad and will be developed as an aerotropolis.
The project is proposed to be developed on a public-private partnership basis for which the state government formed a special purpose vehicle (SPV) – Dholera International Airport Company Limited (DIACL) – in January 2012. To expedite development of the airport, an innovative bundling concept was introduced whereby equity participation in DIACL was invited from central government organisations and private companies. In this regard, in November 2017, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) gave in-principle approval for equity participation and approved the preparation of the detailed project report (DPR). Thereafter, in September 2018, the revised DPR was submitted to AAI and in November 2018, it became a 51 per cent stakeholder in the SPV. Currently, the SPV is a joint venture of AAI, the Gujarat government (33 per cent) and the National Industrial Corridor Development and Implementation Trust (16 per cent). A shareholders agreement in this regard was signed in March 2019.
In the meantime, during 2012-17, preparation of the pre-feasibility study, the master plan, the flood mitigation report and the DPR was taken up. Simultaneously, clearances from the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, and the Ministry of Civil Aviation were sought.
The project has received tremendous support from the state government in the form of the provision of 1,426 hectares of state-owned land. This has already been transferred to the SPV at a token rate of Re 1. In addition, 75 hectares of land will be provided by the government for taking up city-side development works. Other facilities like water supply and drainage up to the airport premises, road connectivity, uninterrupted high tension power supply, exemption from local property tax, etc., have also been made available to the airport authorities. Apart from this, the government has agreed in principle to exempt royalty charges on excavated materials. With this, the overall state support is around Rs 7 billion.
The airport is planned to be developed in three phases. In Phase I,500 acres of land will be utilised to construct the runway (3,200 metres x 45 metres) (extendable to 4,000 metres), a 3,200 metre taxi track (extendable to 4,000 metres), two rapid exit taxi tracks, an isolation bay and six aprons. In the remaining two phases, a terminal building (35,000 square metres with a 3.5 million passenger per annum capacity), an air traffic control (ATC) tower-cum-technical block, a dedicated cargo facility, hangars, city-side car parking for 1,000 cars, a fuel farm (over 12,220 square metre area), and navigational and visual aids will also be provided.
In the past year, the project has picked up momentum after the state government signed an MoU with AAI in January 2019. Soil testing works began in October 2019 and are expected to be completed by February 2020. Meanwhile, in November 2019, bids were invited for appointing an engineering consultant to conduct a technical feasibility study and for preparation of the final DPR for the airport, and RITES Limited had emerged as the lowest bidder.
Site development works are expected to begin by April 2020 and, meanwhile, a project management consultant is expected to be appointed by March 2020. Work on the terminal building is expected to commence by October 2020 and is estimated to be completed by December 2023. Operations of the ATC and communication, navigation and surveillance system are expected to commence by January 2022. Thereafter, the project is expected to be fully commissioned by December 2023.
Dholera airport has huge potential, especially since there are capacity constraints at Ahmedabad airport. As a result, the airport will be saturated by 2025 and the spillover passenger traffic is expected to benefit Dholera airport. Vadodara airport too has its own limitations as the existing 2,600 metre runway cannot be extended and as traffic is increasing at a CAGR of 10-11 per cent, it is expected to be saturated by 2025. To further facilitate traffic, a six-lane expressway and metro connectivity between Ahmedabad and Dholera will be developed. Apart from this, an aviation zone with maintenance, repair, overhaul and cargo facilities and a regional airline hub will be developed close to the airport. The nearby ports of Pipavav and Hazira will also help boost the cargo potential of the airport.