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Politics over Shivaji statue delays Mumbai airport expansion

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Further expansion of the Mumbai airport — in the form of an integrated terminal — is getting delayed over shifting the statue of Maratha warrior king Shivaji, as a number of political parties oppose this move.

“We have completed 75 per cent of work, but there are some delays,” said Anil Pandit, president (real estate) of Ltd, or MIAL, which runs the airport.

He was speaking to reporters here today on the sidelines of a real estate conclave organised by industry body CII.

Work on the new terminal building began in February 2009 and was expected to be over by December 2012. Pandit said the commissioning of the terminal could be delayed by three to four months. He said the delay was due to political reasons without giving the specifics. According to MIAL, the new terminal will have a floor area of 4.3 million sq metres over four levels. Currently, the airport handles 30 million passengers a year, but the proposed terminal is being designed to handle 40 million travellers annually.

“The terminal building has come up on three sides of the statue. But since political parties are opposing the shifting of statue work, MIAL can’t go ahead with the construction,” an airport official said. The and Bharatiya Janata Party, the main Opposition parties in the state assembly, have held protests against the shifting of the statue and the state government, too, has not taken a firm decision on it.

MIAL proposes to construct a grand memorial of Chhatrapati Shivaji on the Western Express Highway near the airport. In addition, it has proposed to relocate the statue to a garden near the airport and undertake beautification. But this has failed to deter the protests. According to sources, the shifting of the statue was almost finalised last October when was the chief minister. However the plan fizzled out with the change of guard in the state.

The construction of the terminal building is stuck but real estate development on the airport land is on course. Pandit said 10-12 acres of airport land would be released for development next year. MIAL is looking to develop a hospitality district around the airport. “Passenger traffic is expected to grow in the next few years,” he said. Pandit said there was a potential for budget hotels and service apartments around the airport.

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