Construction of Guwahati Seaplane Project Likely to Start in 2021
Possible shift in location from Kharghuli hints at 'communication gap between the concerned departments'
On 31st October, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the country’s first seaplane service in Gujarat. It connects the Statue of Unity to the Sabarmati Riverfront. Hereafter, the Centre is seeking to develop 14 more water aerodromes across the country.
“Development of 14 more water aerodromes is being planned pan India under RCS UDAN scheme. Airports Authority of India (AAI) and Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) had requested Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) to conduct a hydrographic survey and later on requested assistance in setting up jetties for facilitating passenger movement,” PTI quoted a shipping official.
Amongst these 14 locations, two are in Assam - one at the Guwahati Riverfront and the other at Umrangso reservoir (in Dima Hasao district).
Notably, the possibilities of introducing seaplanes in Assam was first announced in the Global Investors' Summit of 2018 that was held in Guwahati.
"We are exploring possibilities for introducing seaplanes in Assam. With the seaplanes, Brahmaputra can be the largest waterway in the world," SpiceJet chairman and managing director Ajay Singh had said at the inaugural function.
The detailed project report that was submitted mentioned an approximate cost of Rs. 11 crores for the project.
The aerodrome was to be constructed at Kharguli near the High Court Guest House. Technical approval was taken from the Water Resource Department, Central Water Commission, and Assam Engineering College’s Civil Branch for feasibility and viability.
To all appearances, land at the actual site was developed with markings of the proposed project. The initial clearing of the said land at Kharghuli was undertaken.
Regional Executive Director of the Airports Authority of India (AAI), Sanjeev Jindal, told G Plus last March that the water aerodrome or seaplane services would be launched on the Brahmaputra and the Umrangso reservoir by the end of 2020 or early 2021.
"Three jetties would be built at three locations at a cost of Rs. 50 crores. Some other small works have to be done before launching the new ferrying mode. The three locations selected for the seaplanes include Guwahati, Umrangso, and the Kaziranga National Park," he had mentioned.
However, no visible development has been seen on any. G Plus took stock of the current developments in the projects.
Sources in the Guwahati Smart City Limited said that the Guwahati riverfront water aerodrome project is being reconsidered after the ropeway project was inaugurated as the routes collided making it difficult for the seaplanes to fly in limited space.
In February 2019, Minister of State for Shipping, Pon Radhakrishnan said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha about the construction of six water aerodrome sites that were announced under the regional connectivity scheme UDAN, which included the Guwahati riverfront and the Umrangso Reservoir besides the Sabarmati riverfront, Statue of Unity (Sardar Sarovar Dam), Nagarjuna Sagar and Shatrunjay Dam. While the two seaplane services in the Prime Minister’s home state of Gujarat are already functional, the two sanctioned for Assam remain a distant dream.
As per data provided by the AAI, 1.05 acres of land was allotted for the construction of an aerodrome at Kharghuli, Uzan Bazar. Bathymetry (the measurement of the depth of water) was suppose to be completed by the end of October by the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) and the Obstacle Limitation Surface (OLS) survey is yet to be taken up. While 40 percent of the environmental clearance is reportedly complete, the DPR could not be completed due to the non-completion of the bathymetry survey.
The Assam government has already signed an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) and filed an application with the steering committee for site clearance and other necessary statutory action.
However, AAI officials have mentioned that the site might have to be shifted to ensure unhindered functioning because of the ropeway.
“A survey was conducted for the feasibility of the project but due to the ropeway, the location had to be shifted. We are awaiting confirmation of the same,” said Rgyatsho Lama, General Manager, Air Traffic Management at the LGBI Airport Guwahati.
The exact location is yet to be ascertained.
Notably, the Guwahati-North Guwahati ropeway was commissioned in 2011 and its final construction started in full force from 2015-16. The trial runs were conducted in 2018 while the water aerodrome project in Guwahati was conceptualized in 2018.
The need to shift the location hints at the issue of the 'communication gap between the concerned departments’ and ‘lack of expert involvement’ as was reported by the enquiry committee in case of the ropeway failure incident.
The DPR of the one at the Umrangso reservoir is reportedly underway.