New greenfield airports must for 2nd & 3rd tier cities: President
President Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday suggested enhancing civil aviation infrastructure by building new greenfield airports to not only cater to “phenomenal” rise in passenger and cargo traffic, but also to connect tier 2 and 3 cities, especially in the Northeast. Inaugurating ‘India Aviation 2016’, a mega civil aviation expo and conference, at Begumpet airport here, Mukherjee noted that India still lags behind in terms of per capita air travels when compared to other countries.
“It is estimated that India shall require about 800 aircraft by 2020 to cater to the phenomenal increase in air passenger and freight traffic. The supporting aviation infrastructure has to be suitably upgraded by building new greenfield airports, expanding existing airports and upgrading facilities for maintenance, repair and operations,” he said.
Despite rapid growth of civil aviation industry in the country, “several tier 2 and tier 3 cities of India still remain unconnected or are inadequately connected with the national grid”, the President said.
“With the existing economic centres reaching a saturation point, business activities are bound to move to newer destinations. Northeastern states still lack adequate air connectivity due to paucity of civil aviation infrastructure,” he said. “The deeper the air penetration to smaller cities, better the connectivity to Northeastern part of India,” he said. The President is on a day-long tour to Hyderabad for the fifth edition of biennial aviation event themed on ‘India’s Civil Aviation Sector: Potential As Global Manufacturing and MRO Hub’.
Despite being ranked 9th in the world, the President pointed out that India was one of the “least” penetrated aviation markets globally with 0.04 trips per capita per annum as compared to 0.3 of China and more than 2 in the US. However, he said the civil aviation market is “poised” for a faster and sustainable growth with the development of 100 smart cities, new economic corridors, more than 50 new airports and expansion of existing airports. He underlined that air travel has ceased to be a luxury these days as the middle class population has grown by 60 per cent over the last five years to about 270 million in 2015. The rise in their incomes also “has enhanced their capacity to undertake air travel for business and leisure”, he noted.
“This has resulted in further growth in the business of the low cost airlines,” he said and asked the industry to leverage the opportunity, saying it is estimated that by 2020, the total passenger traffic in India is likely to touch 421 million. Welcoming the ‘Make in India’ scheme and National Manufacturing Policy, the President said it aims to facilitate investment, foster innovation, protect intellectual property and build world class manufacturing infrastructure.
“India is expected to be amongst the top three manufacturing destinations by 2020. The stable and consistent policies of the government, sustained availability of low cost skilled work force and strong technical and engineering capabilities has made India a favourable destination for FDI,” he said, adding that the FDI in air transport during last 15 years has touched $570 million.
He said he was happy to see that the country registered a growth of 14 per cent in civil aviation sector during the last decade. “The government is planning to invest over $120 billion in the development of airport infrastructure and aviation navigation services over the next decade,” the President said.
Almost 200 delegates from India and 25 other countries are participating in the event here. Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh Governor E S L Narasimhan and Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao were present during the event.