Current Affairs

Dabolim Airport will not be saturated, CM is lying

The perception that Mr. Parrikar has that 2 airports operating simultaneously in a State as small as Goa is a good option is unfounded. Detailed information of its viability must be revealed, it is a decision that will affect the State and common people need to be aware of the reality on ground.

 

I am in possession of the two reports done by ADPi (2005) and ICAO (2007) and have gone into each and every detail and found out the facts. These utterly important studies should have been made available to MLA’s and aviation professionals who could have then undoubtedly point out the discrepancies in  what is written in the study and what was being said in the legislative assembly on 1st April 2013. The details of the proposed airport should have been evaluated by both sides of the aisle if you, Mr. Parrikar want to prove yourself right.

Dabolim airport at the moment handles as per the records 578,256 International passengers and 2,943,295 domestic passengers. The above statistics are extracted from the AAI traffic report; and this is handled by the existing terminal alone. The total figure works out to 3,521,551. The new terminal which will be operational by August 2013 as reported will be able to handle approximately 6 million passengers alone, now it does not take only a mathematician to figure the outcome of both the terminals combined. Refurbishing the existing terminal will also mean better facility and more travelers being accommodated. Mr. Parrikar should remember that there is no congestion for the runway utilization but was for passengers only. According to the ADPi and ICAO reports the passenger count will only reach the 6 million figures by 2024 – 2025.  If these two reports state the facts why does Mr. Parrikar say that Dabolim airport will be saturated by 2017? It is evident enough that the new and old terminals can handle approximately 9.2 million passengers comfortably.  In my experience and knowledge, being in aviation for the last 30 years, I do not foresee the figures going upward drastically in the next 30 – 40 years. Furthermore if they convert the Dabolim airport into a fully civilian one as it used to be in the early 1960’s the airport could be well used to its maximum capacity by developing more facilities and terminals in and around the airport. These numbers that I have provided are not fictitious statistics but have been confirmed with all agencies involved in providing with the same.  Below you will find tables (1.1 and 1.2) which show the passenger forecast as appeared in the two studies (ADPi and ICAO)

In the above table you can clearly see that on an average, the percentage increase in passengers every year is 7% which is around 196000 per year (Domestic and International). Where does this give rise to being in dire need of a new airport?

These two tables from ADPi and ICAO studies clearly state the passenger difference and increase.

MOPA area as a whole can be developed as a tourist locale and have local indigenous industries that will support the farmers and other residents. The fuel emissions are no doubt going to destroy even the little vegetation that will be left after the construction of the airport. If the airport construction does go ahead then the locals should be the shareholders rather than giving them 150 – 300 rupees per sq.mtr as compensation. It has also not been made public that the land has high level of Bauxite deposits that will be destroyed should the construction of the airport be given a go ahead. Bauxite is scheduled I mineral and this assumes relevance as Union Ministry of Steel and Mines is directly concerned with systematic development and preservation of minerals for the nation. The fact that MOPA has vast deposits of Bauxite needs to be publicly highlighted so that we can work towards its preservation. Weather conditions too are not extremely favourable to have aircraft movements owing to forestation. A risk will be taken should the airport come up. As I have personally visited the site I have seen that it is indeed a table-top airport, it has forestation around it along with deep gorges at the sides, again threatening the safety of a landing aircraft. The Mangalore incident was disastrous enough to realise how unsafe such an airport can be.
This airport scam is a way of lobbying for the real estate community which will benefit a few elite from the society. There should be an unbiased debate and even an opinion poll should be made mandatory in this case. If you are trying to convince people for MOPA then they need to be given facts and figures proving your statements.

The good gesture of keeping the Dabolim airport in the name of Matanhy Saldhana is highly appreciated. But building a new airport and having a higher cost which the taxpayers will have to pay somehow to recover cost involved is not an ideal situation.

What makes him think that the airlines will be open to operating at two airports with a distance of only 70-80kms between them? Is it even viable for the airlines? What about the operational cost that will double if they operate out of both airports? Having offices and personnel at 2 airports in a small State like Goa is not financially profitable. Taxis, parking bays etc. will be more expensive at the new airport for the cost involved to be recovered at least in the next 30 years.

A new airport built just to benefit a few industries, is not in good spirit. Having pharmaceuticals or other industries around MOPA does not give rise to the need of having an airport there. I would suggest we make our transport facilities better. Highways need to be built to speed up transportation. It is indeed sad to see the state of our roads, mainly those connecting a village to cities. Mr. Parrikar has also forgotten that the Mormugao port is one of the best in India and is open 365 days a year. Due to its proximity to the existing airport it is an excellent feeder for cargo. Is he trying to say that we will ignore the port and shift cargo to MOPA just because it is surrounded by industries? Where is the logic in that? We need answers Mr. Parrikar, not just excuses.

Another interesting observation is that he believes that there will be a sudden influx of Airbus A380’s coming to Goa for passenger and cargo operations which are impractical. Does he realize that an A380 has a seating configuration of 525 passengers? And that it can accommodate more than 150 tonne payload of cargo? How many of these aircraft do you think will operate into Goa? Are there any statistics? The passenger increase/year nullifies this argument; cargo load too does not increase so drastically every year. The new Dabolim terminal can easily accommodate more cargo operations in addition to the 6170 tonnage handled in 2011-2012 (April – March). According to few reports in the media, the Indian Government plans on opening Cargo hubs around the country, where do you think Goa will feature? Is Goa practical enough to have major Cargo operations so as to have a dedicated cargo hub?

The Chief Minister should meet with NGO’s, experts and aviation professionals to understand the needs rather than assuming that he can run Goa without any inputs from the people. There is a reason why we are opposing the new airport and
we require answers. If you are not wrong, Mr. Parrikar why can you not reveal studies to everyone? As I am continuously finding facts from these two reports (ADPI and ICAO) the latter has indeed said that, financially having two airports will be a challenge, given the significant level of investment requires and the long period necessary to amortize the assets. To be attractive to the private sector to finance the totality of the investment of the so called MOPA airport and bear the financial risk over long period, minimum guarantees must be given to the potential developers – such as there will be no competitive airport in the area surrounding MOPA (Hyderabad, Mangalore, Bangalore Sindhudurg are close enough) the likely profitability of the investment over a medium term within the concession period, the passenger traffic and the revenue generation opportunities showing growth potential, and the existence of other indirect business opportunities to complement the core activity. The report of 2005 also mentioned that the cash flow generated by the project was not sufficient enough to cover the capital expenditure program for a 100% private investment and that a new airport in MOPA would not be financially viable under a scenario of total private ownership, even in the situation where all the commercial traffic from Dabolim would be transferred to the new MOPA airport. The study also stated that in order to have a cash flow generated out of the project the passenger service fee will have to be increased by the State from USD 4.68 to USD 12.00 for international passengers. Such a steep increase is not pleasant at all. I would also like to know who will the passenger service fees go to? Will the State benefit? Will it be used to upgrade infrastructure?

I think it is well known worldwide and clearly demonstrated in the studies that in a dual or multi-airport system, that this arrangement is not only a compromise but also the second best solution as compared to a single airport solution in most cases. A necessary condition for the successful implementation of the second airport is the presence of a sizable market. The convergence of both passengers’ and airlines’ needs leads to the conclusion that the successful implementation of a second airport needs quite a high level of originating traffic. Based on recent studies on this issue, the threshold would presently be around 12 million originating passengers per year or a total of 24 million originating and destination passengers, on a yearly basis. It is thus of utmost importance for the Government of Goa to establish an airport development strategy which will lead to an optimal allocation of resources by maximizing the economic and financial benefits, while minimizing the cost of providing airport services.

Based on the above parameters and on the findings of recent studies, the relatively small amount of airport traffic in Goa does not provide a strong argument for splitting traffic between the existing Dabolim airport and the new proposed MOPA airport. Splitting traffic between the two would impact commercial and financial viability of both airports. Having the enhanced capacity of Dabolim airport, MOPA will undoubtedly be doomed and the taxpayer’s money will be wasted.  The taxpayers (our money) will be pumped into this project and as the costs rise so will the travel cost to recover the money in minimum time. Revenue however will take a long time to be generated and roll over thus providing benefits but until then (and one cannot be sure how long) the Government will do all it can like introducing unnecessary taxes to extract more money from the travelers.

We need to know why there is urgency for MOPA, and I do not believe that Dabolim will be saturated by 2017. It is unrealistic to assume that. The new airport will not only cause destruction of our environment but will be a vain attempt to make Goa a major airline hub.

– Author
Vito Gomes
CMD, Aviation Management Services

 

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