Stating that the first phase of the much-delayed Navi Mumbai airport project will "commence" by December 2019, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Saturday said his government would issue a letter of intent (LoI)as awarding the contract is a "matter of time" now.
He also said the pre-developmental works for the ambitious project will be completed by May next year.
The CM's statement assumes significance as award of the LoI is considered as an important step in taking the project forward, which is dogged by inordinate delays sinceits conception in 1997.
Infrastructure major GVK group had bagged the financial bid to build and operate the second international airport in the Mumbai metropolitan region at an investment of Rs 16,000 crore earlier this year, beating rival GMR group.
However, the project couldn't make any progress as the state government has not yet approved and finalised the finance deal won by the GVK.
Once the government gives its nod, a letter of award will be given to the contractor, after which a special purpose vehicle (SPV) can be set up to execute the project.
"There are two phases of of Navi Mumbai airport. One phase is the pre-works in which you have to level the land,cut a hill and you have to change the course of the river. So these are the predevelopment works which we have awarded the contract and they have already started the work."
"So possibly the site with the pre-development works will be ready by May next year. The concessionaire for(the airport) is also nearly shortlisted. It is a matter oftime that we will award the contract. We will issue the letter of intent to the concessionaire and what is intended is that the first phase of the Navi Mumbai airport should commence by December 2019," Fadnavis told reporters on the sidelines of "ISB rpt ISB Leadership Summit" organised by the Indian School of Business.
The project has faced inordinate delays over the issues of environment and land acquisition since the state government approved it in 2007.
The project will be carried out on a public-private partnership (PPP) model and Cidco (City and IndustryDevelopment Corporation), a government authority for city planning, will incur pre-development work costs, which it willbe later recovered from GVK.
Interestingly, a CAPA Global Strategy Report forJuly-August, 2017, had recently stated that the airport is unlikely to commence operations before March 2024, assignificant earthworks need to be performed at the site, located in Raigad district adjoining Mumbai.
Meanwhile, replying to a query, Fadnavis said his government had requested the Centre to differentiate between smaller and bigger states in allotting the "ease of doingbusiness" ranking.
"What we have requested the DIPP (Department ofIndustrial Policy and Promotion) is to slightly differentiate between the large states and the small states. Having said that, we will aim that we should be a leading state (in theranking). That we will achieve this year," the CM said.
On the recent torrential rains that led to flooding of roads in Mumbai, the chief minister said the pumping network to flush out water into sea has begun and 60 per cent of the work has been completed.
He refused to take questions on the Shiv Sena, the belligerent partner of the ruling BJP which has recently indicated to pull out of the coalition government.
Earlier in his address to ISB students, Fadnavis underlined the need to shift people from agriculture to other sectors, as 50 per cent of people in Maharashtra are dependenton agriculture.
"Agriculture does not have the capacity to consume (to sustain) 50 per cent of people. We need to shift 15 to 20 percent of people to other sectors of economy..to service sector...to industries sector, and we have started doingthat," he said.
Fadnavis said Maharashtra registered a 15.5 per cent growth in agriculture, which was on a downward spiral, after he took over as chief minister three years ago.