Airport: One Enough, Two Not Yet

By Prabhakar Timble
09 April 2013 06:01 IST

The issue of a second airport in Goa, I cannot say with certainty for Goa in view of the inadequate and conflicting data, should be debated and analysed on financial feasibility, commercial considerations and overall economic growth of the State and the command area including the neighbouring district of Sindhudurg. Such a long-term project involving heavy investment and huge chunk of land resource cannot be converted into a North Goa versus South Goa dispute. At the same time, looking at the passenger traffic and cargo projections for the next ten years, we should weigh the possibility of meeting the demand needs with modifications to the existing infrastructure arrangements at Dabolim as this approach will cause the least disturbance to land and ecology. The way the debate is heading coupled with the rash haste of the government has resulted in the loss of opportunity to take decisions based on solid economic reasons.

Airport is perceived as an attractive proposition by vocal opinion makers in the vicinity and the politicians. This has polarised the matter to Dabolim versus Mopa. With well-wishers and admirers of Mr. Matanhy Saldanha multiplying after his demise, the echo for Dabolim is loud. The hand of the hotel lobby from South Goa is also visible. This glamorous arrival and departure station apparently seems to develop the employment and occupations of local communities. Having sold this, a retreat would mean that the government is not serious with the development of Pernem. There are better alternatives of expanding opportunities for people with minimum displacement but they would not be appreciated at this stage.

The myths

Airport cultivates the development of local communities in the neighbourhood is a myth. It creates the demand for new settlements and township for skilled and unskilled labour. Unless education, recruitment and training of locals are made an integral part of airport construction and development, locals remain untouched. The local landowners have to forcibly surrender their lands at the government rates and within a year the land values sky-rocket throwing the locals out of the market. However, this can be harnessed to the benefit of local landowners only if the government implements a land acquisition policy wherein the government allows every landowner to retain 50% of their lands and acquires the balance. This will enable the owners to take the benefit of market rates on completion of the airport project. This is how the government could be a catalyst to ensure that the benefits of public investment accrue to the locals. At a later stage, the locals themselves could be stakeholders in the projects which are necessitated due to the airport if they retain their ownership over land. This would be the stage when land is required to meet the residential requirements, warehousing, related airport services, educational institutions, business establishments, hotel industry and ancillary services. Failure to do this, results in dispossession and deprivation to the families who have contributed for the infrastructure project and supernormal gains to those land owners whose lands do not fall in the project area.

Since, Goa already has a reasonably good functional airport at Dabolim with expanded terminal and night landing facilities; a reliable, fast, hassle free road link from Canacona to Pernem and from the airport to all major talukas/industrial estates could be a booster for business, service sector and tourism industry of the State. Development of Pernem as a hub for education and performing arts along with good transportation network can prove to be more gainful to the locals than an international airport. If we want to be engulfed by the myth that only an airport at Mopa would open the door of development to this otherwise neglected taluka of Goa and nothing less than this is tolerable, then let us learn it by burning our fingers.

Another myth in circulation is of two airports----Dabolim and Mopa. Traffic projections show the low feasibility of Mopa airport even if the entire traffic of Dabolim stands diverted to the new centre. The State government contemplates to take an assurance from the central government in writing that Dabolim would be retained at all costs. Such an undertaking does not bind the future governments lifelong from not taking a contrary view. The central government may very well oblige but passenger and cargo is not guided by the written assurances between these two governments. It will all depend on the operations and the business decisions of the investors. The present studies show that the splitting of traffic of the two airports will make both uneconomical. Take the case of government primary schools in Goa. Earlier governments were forced to give assurances on the floor of the Goa Assembly that the government will continue to run these schools irrespective of enrolment. We have now reached a situation wherein we have no alternative except to amalgamate due to dismal record of enrolment which in practical terms is a refined word for closure. The best option is one airport. If we want to go with the two airport model, we should not do it in a hurry without a development strategy in place to keep the two burners on fire.

Halt the hurry

The present airport at Dabolim can serve the needs of Goa without stress and strain for the next fifteen years. The airport has been renovated with new terminals. The parking arrangement appears to be a major hindrance and resulting in some chaos. This is a matter which can be addressed without herculean efforts.

Traffic projections and the present state of the major economies of the world do not send warm signals which could upset these estimates. It is possible that after fifteen years, we may need a new airport if Dabolim cannot take the load and the Indian Navy does not relent. It is difficult to predict whether needs of the Navy would shrink or expand looking at the advances in technology. It is equally not easy to make future predictions of traffic i.e. beyond a fifteen year period due to the speed, quality and shift of advances in communications technology. The Environmental Impact Assessment in respect of Mopa and the Public Hearing which is a statutory requirement is not yet completed. Hence, it would make business sense if the matter of two airports is studied intensively since the demand and supply for airport facilities are well within our control and would stay so at least for another decade.

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Prabhakar Timble

Mr Prabhakar Timble is an educationist and a legal expert. He has served several educational institutions, especially as the Principal of Government College at Quepem, Kare College of Law in Madgao as well as couple of Management Institutes. He was also the State Election Commissioner of Goa.

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Previous Comments

Mopa airport must be stopped right now, if Goa has to be saved from total economic collapse. The implications of the foolish proposal for a new airport wil be disastrous for the people and the economy of Goa, condemning us into a downward spiral towards doom and destruction. The people of Goa are ruled by a bunch of monkeys it seems!

- Abhijit Prabhudesai, Curtorim | 19 th April 2013 07:45


What the author means by sufficiency for 15 years is the fact that the Runway at Dabolim (4000 mtrs) is capable of handling 25 million passengers per year as per ICAO standards. Hence, at 3.5 million passengers last year, Dabolim is not used to even 14% of its capacity. Even assuming a 50-50 traffic sharing between military and defence, a surplus capacity of 9.5 millon is still available to be used at Dabolim. And with modern ATC PBN procedures this capacity of Dabolim could be increased to upto 30%.

Thus, Does Goa require such a costly experiment in the form of Mopa to satisfy the ego of its Salazar like CEO ? Mr. Borkar has put up a comment just for the sake of writing it, it would seem.

- Anil Parikkar, Goa | 17 th April 2013 12:08


While the author of this post claims the current airport is sufficient for Goa upto next 15 years, I would be very interested to know what's the basis for this claim? 15 years is a very long time, and prediction for 15 years is a tall claim.... oh!! .... remember am not advocating mopa or dabolim, but just want to delve deeper into this post, does the author really make sense? or this is written just for the heck of writing?!?!?

- manguesh borker, goa | 16 th April 2013 14:48


Prabhakar Timble hits the right point. If the current airport can serve with better infrastructure what is the need for a new one? It only serves the politicians and land sharks who will make a killing over the new airport. People of South Goa will now repent voting for the BJP.

- Mario, Vasco | 14 th April 2013 15:27


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