The Andhra Pradesh government's plans to set up a Rs 1,000 crore international airport in the state has suffered a setback as the ministry of defence has refused clearance for the chosen site on security reasons.
The airport was to come up at Hakimpet near Hyderabad, an existing defence airfield. The Andhra government had sought the ministry's permission to utilise the airport for civilian purposes. The state wanted to develop the airport along the lines of the proposed Bangalore International Airport by inviting foreign investment. The project is expected to cost around Rs 1,000 crore. State government sources said the Indian Air Force (IAF) which was using the airport and it did not want to give up control. The airport was located in the interior part of the Deccan and so could not be important from the security angle.
The state had proposed that the existing civilian airport at Begumpet be taken up by the IAF in exchange for the Hakimpet airport which had a larger area. They say referring the application to the DGCA and the AAI would only delay the project.
Andhra Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu wants to develop the airport along international lines to tap the business potential of the state. He has embarked upon a programme to attract foreign investment and is eager to make the airport project a show window to the state. The government cannot get private parties to invest in the proposed airport without getting central permission to utilise the land for an international airport.
The Begumpet airport handles over 15 domestic and international flights a day and the AAI feels it does not have the capacity to take in more flights. International flights out of Hyderabad are to Sharjah and Kuwait and there is considerable passenger pressure for direct flights to South-East Asia, Europe and the US. Andhra passengers now have to travel to Mumbai and Madras to connect to major foreign destinations. According to AAI estimates, the state has considerable inbound and outbound potential both for business as well as tourist traffic. The IAF has its Bidar base barely 150 kms from Hyderabad. Besides it has a string of airfields in Andhra from where it conducts mainly training missions. So the loss of the Hakimpet airfield should not impact much upon its training capacity.