Finally, Some Good News On The New Pune Airport Front!
New Pune Airport – Critical Need for Supporting Infrastructure… Facilitating Development of South Pune Region
After waiting for more than a decade, we finally have some positive development on the Pune airport! This week, the Chief Minister of Maharashtra announced the final site for the new green-field airport.
The need for an independent civilian green-field airport has been identified for a long time. With a population of over 6 million, the Pune Metro Region is the 7th largest in the country, and growing fast. The population is expected to touch 10 million in the next two decades. The present Lohegaon airport at Pune is a defense airfield and this places numerous restrictions on commercial flight operations (number of available flying hours, adequate land for passenger terminal expansion, lack of a longer runway, lack of two parallel runways, etc.)
Many projects for the new airport were proposed since the last decade, but with no progress. It was a long wait. Some old timers on twitter will remember my regular tweets (since 2010) about the new Pune airport progress (or lack thereof).
Multiple sites in the Chakan-Rajgurunagar area (North Pune) were considered, but rejected due to land acquisition and other constraints. Finally, this last week the Maharashtra Government has finalized on the site near Purandar. The ‘Chatrapati Sambhaji Raje Airport’ (as it will be called) will come up near the Pargao-Memane villages, located to the South East of Pune, near the town of Saswad and the Purandar Fort. A big thanks to the CM Devendra Fadnavis, the Pune MP Anil Shirole and other authorities for pushing through this long pending critical project!
An aggressive 2019 deadline has been proposed. This is great, but will need extremely good execution.
This new airport can be an excellent catalyst to drive the development of South and South East Pune Region. Over the past two decades, a lot of the manufacturing and software/IT growth of Pune has been concentrated in the North West/North/North East corridors. This new airport will act as a magnet to attract development on the South/South East side. This is good for the long term balanced growth of the Pune Metro Region.
It is critical that a 5-10-30 year plan is created for this area. I believe this area (and development planning associated with it) will come under the newly formed PMRDA (Pune Metro Regional Development Authority). There are many lessons that can be learned from other areas development in Pune, as well as from other cities.
First and foremost, it will be critical to build a good road access to the new airport. At present, the accessibility of this area is not great. The routes through Dive Ghat, Bobdev Ghat and via Katraj Ghat – Khed Shivapur are all not ideal, given the current condition of these roads. The Ring Road project for Pune is another long pending project, and completing this project (at least certain sections of it) before 2019 is imperative for good access to the new airport. A ring road connection from the NH4 near Khed Shivapur to the new airport would be a good first access point.
Here we need to learn from the Bangalore and Hyderabad examples of the past decade. The new Bangalore airport was built in 2008, however the access road (widening the highway, flyovers, etc.) took a long time to build. Hyderabad on the other hand built good road access to the new airport from early on. The goal should be to have excellent road access infrastructure ready before the airport completion deadline.
Looking at the next few decades, it is also important to consider a good fast rail connectivity to this new airport, from the city center. Rail connectivity (public transport access) to the airport is critical.
As I mentioned earlier, the new airport will act as a prime catalyst to develop South/South-East Pune. Proximity to the airport will drive many businesses, industries, education/research institutions, tourism centric facilities to locate to this area. The long-term plan for this area should include setting up new IT/Software, Business and Research Parks in this area. The existing manufacturing areas (MIDCs) at Jejuri, Shirval/Khandala (Satara district) need to be expanded. This airport will have good proximity to Satara and Baramati as well, and manufacturing infrastructure in these areas can be boosted. A Delhi Aero-City type area should also be planned to locate hotels and businesses near the airport complex.
One important infrastructure piece that is lacking in Pune today is a good international standard expo and convention center. This should be ideally build near the new airport as well.
In addition to Pune, Panchagani and Mahabaleshwar will have very easy access from this new airport (less than 100 km). Similarly, the majestic forts of Purandar, Rajgad, Torna and Sinhagad are also nearby. If a good plan is developed, this airport can drive more tourism in the Pune region (including neighboring districts).
Pune has been lagging behind all the other metros on many of the key infrastructure projects (Airport, Metro, Ring Road, etc.). We have a lot of catch up to do, and fast execution is going to be of paramount importance. Whether that happens or not …. it remains to be seen. But at least as far as the airport is concerned, I am more optimistic this week, than I was at any point in the past 10 years!