Shirdi airport update
In less than two years, devotees from the city can hope to cut down on their 8- to 12-hour travel time to Shirdi and instead, fly over there in just a matter of half-an-hour, even as the Union environment ministry gave the nod for an airport to be constructed 13 km from the temple town. At a time when the Navi Mumbai airport, Pedder road flyover, Worli-Haji Ali sea link and the Monorail bridge over Mahul creek are stuck in the green tape, the eco-clearance came as a major achievement for the state. “The experts’ appraisal committee (EAC) of the Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) lauded our presentation on the airport, made some suggestions to the plan and announced clearance to the project,” said Maharashtra Airport Development Company Ltd (MADCL) general manager Ramesh Yaool. “The Naresh Dayal-led committee sanctioned out project and told us to download the formal clearance letter from the MoEF website in a month.” The airport, which is estimated to cost around Rs 340 crore, will come up on a 340-hectare land. While Rs 40 crore will be contributed by the state government, Rs 100 crore will come from the Shirdi temple trust. Devotees from across the country, have promised another Rs 150 crore. “We hope to finish the process of appointing developers in three months and start the constructions by March, next year. In the next 15 months, we want to complete the first phase of the airport that will be able to handle up to 1,000 flyers a day. The next phase should be finished by 2013, when 3,000 passengers can use the airport every day,” the GM said. The runway of the airport will be 3,200 to 3,600 m long and will be fit for the landing of big aircraft. According to Jayant Sasane, chairman of the trust, once the flights started, Shirdi could witness around 3,000 devotees from Pune, Mumbai and Nashik every day. “It is good news for us and we hope that the first flight would land by 2012,” said Sasane.