Funds crunch hits new ATC tower project at Kolkata airport

By bappaditya paul

The plan to construct a new Air Traffic Control (ATC) tower at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International (NSCBI) Airport has come under cloud due to lack of funds.

Work for building the new ATC tower was to begin this March in phase-II of the NSCBI Airport’s ongoing modernisation project. But now it is uncertain, whether the work will even start at the beginning of 2013, sources said.

The construction of a new tower is deemed necessary as parts of the apron area and taxiway to be commissioned for the new integrated terminal building is out of visual coverage from the existing ATC tower.

Initially the new tower was planned on a plot adjacent to the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) office on the airport campus.

It was envisaged as a combined project: a six storey technical block and a control tower of about 60-metre height above it. The aim was to facilitate a 360-degree view from the ATC tower of both the city and air-side of the airport.

“As per a preliminary estimate made in 2008, a sum of Rs 50-crore was earmarked for civil work for the proposed control tower and another Rs 135 crore for the procurement of most advanced apparatus used in air surveillance. A detailed project report (DPR) to this effect was also prepared. But nothing has moved since then, in the meantime the estimated cost has escalated to about Rs 250 crore,” said a senior official attached to the NSCBI Airport modernisation project.

The primary reason for this is scarcity of adequate fund. The situation has got further complicated by the delay in completing the first phase of the airport modernisation project, which includes two five-storied interconnected domestic and international terminals, a park-cum-water body and a right-turn flyover from VIP Road to the new terminals.

“An amount of Rs 1,941-crore was sanctioned for the first phase, with the date of completion being August 2011. But owing to the delay, the estimated cost has now gone up to Rs 2,325 crore, making the Airports Authority of India (AAI) to approach the Public Investment Board (PIB) for a revised sanction for the additional amount. While the matter is still pending with the PIB, the project work is being continued with the 10 per cent escalation that comes included with the actual sanction,” said another official.

Till 31 March, an amount of Rs 1,726 crore has already been incurred in the project work and there is a liability of another Rs 50 crore. This even as about six per cent of the civil work is still incomplete and the interior works has not been taken up at all.

In the given situation, a secretary (expenditure) with the Union finance ministry visited the NSCBI Airport last week and held a meeting with senior project officials to take stock of the work.

The Union finance ministry has reportedly made it categorical that the NSCBI Airport will have to generate its own resources for phase-II work, that is, the construction of the new ATC tower.

“We have got hint that the new tower is not happening anytime soon. Hence, an automation project of about Rs 40 crore has been taken up for the existing control ATC. While second and third floor of the building is being readied to house new apparatus, the floor area of the tower is also being expanded by another 200 square feet towards south,” said an ATC official.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 11 April 2012.)

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