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Devanahalli airport project takes off


Our Bureau

BANGALORE, Jan. 19

INFOTECH and aerospace, so synonymous with Bangalore, blended together today when the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, pressed the button to symbolically get Bangalore's Devanahalli international airport project off the ground.

``This marks the virtual-ground breaking of a real project in true IT style,'' Mr N. R. Narayana Murthy, Chairman, Bangalore International Airport Ltd, said. The airport is expected to be commissioned in 2004.

The Prime Minister promised that the Centre would extend all support to the Rs 1,000-crore airport project that would be the country's first in collaboration with the private sector.

Mr Narayana Murthy said the airport would be ready in 3-5 years, but the Centre should ensure direct landing of at least one European and two American (to the west coast) flights from Bangalore in the next 3-4 months. Being the hub of India's IT exports, Bangalore may lose out to China and other competitors unless quick decisions are taken over foreign flights, he cautioned. There should be a forward-looking open-skies policy, with aeronautical charges based on the cost recovery basis to the private pro moters.

The Civil Aviation Minister, Mr Sharad Yadav, said bilateral agreements have been concluded to allow Malaysian and Dubai flights. He promised special steps to enable more direct flights to the existing HAL airport, now holding an interim international st atus. The HAL airport was declared international by Mr Vajpayee in November 1998.

The Devanahalli project is one that Bangalore, the natural destination of all foreign dignitaries and delegations, has been yearning for, said the Karnataka Chief Minister, Mr S. M. Krishna. As the State owned 2,400 of the required 3,600 acres for the ai rport, the State had one hurdle less to cross, he said. Already, 1,200 acres have been acquired.

Having initiated its search for a 74 per cent private promoter in the project in June 1999, the State Government is now going ahead with the preliminary infrastructure needs for the airport. Last month, it floated the special purpose BIAL to take the pro ject forward. Mr Rajeev Chandrashekar, BPL Innovision CEO and Infrastructure Task Force Chairman, is on its board.

Two consortia -- formed by Hochtief and Zurich Airport-Siemens-L&T -- remain in the picture. Officials say the two consortia are expected to submit their detailed project reports around April. The State, through the Infrastructure Development Corporation (Karnataka) Ltd, and the Airports Authority of India are to together pick the remaining 26 per cent.

Pic.: The Prime Minister, Mr A.B. Vajpayee, the Civil Aviation Minister, Mr Sharad Yadav, and the Karnataka Chief Minister, Mr S.M. Krishna, at the launch of the Bangalore international airport project in Bangalore on Friday.

Picture by Saggere Ramaswamy

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