For civil engineer Harpal Singh, airport terminals, albeit those in different stages of construction, now feel like second homes. The 48-year-old was part of the team that constructed Terminals 1 and 3 of Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport. Now, nearly a hundred kilometres away, he faces what he calls the toughest challenge of his life so far — making sure the international airport in Jewar, NCR’s second, is on track.
The urgency now betrays the lull for months after Zurich Airport International AG won the bid to develop the airport, as things ground to a halt after Covid hit. While the Switzerland-based company won the bid in November 2019, it was not till October 2020 that the concessionaire agreement was signed with the Uttar Pradesh government.
Now, the deadline to complete the first phase is just over a year away — November 24, 2024 — and work to build the runway, the security perimeter, as well as developing a hotels’ hub and transit system is on at a feverish pace. The airport was recently granted its unique three-letter international identification code — DXN — by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
Speaking to The Indian Express, Singh said, “I am available on site from 8.30 am till 8.30 pm, through the week. This is my third airport project. Before Jewar, I worked on the construction of Terminals 1 and 3 of Delhi Airport. My first big project was the construction of the Parliament library in 1996.”
After a degree in civil engineering from Delhi College of Engineering, now Delhi Technological University, in 1996, Singh landed a job at Larsen & Toubro where he worked for around 26 years. In 2022, he was hired by TATA Projects for the position of General Manager (projects) just for this project.
“I always liked challenging work, that’s why I chose this profession. It (Jewar airport) will be one of the world’s fastest projects,” he added.
According to Christoph Schnellmann, CEO, Noida International Airport, the situation now is similar to what it was pre-Covid. “So far (the big challenge), of course, was Covid in 2020 and its world-wide impact till 2021. But I am pleased to say that we have managed to develop the airport with the government through ups and downs. Now we have put Covid behind and the situations in India and at the international level have reached the pre-Covid period. The demand for air travel continues to rise,” he said.
Like Singh, 22-year-old Arif Pathan, a labourer, is also working round the clock on the project. “We work around 12 hours daily, with an hour’s break for lunch. I do shutter work that gives support to the concrete before it becomes solid,” said Pathan, who lives 24 km away in Jewar’s Chanchali village.
Singh and Pathan are among around 7,000-odd people, the maximum capacity of the workforce, working on the site to make one runway and one terminal operational by the end of 2024.
Spread across 1,334 hectares, the Noida International Airport (NIA) at Jewar is being developed by Yamuna International Airport Private Limited (YIAPL), which is a subsidiary of Zurich Airport International AG. Once its expansion is complete and its six proposed runways are operational, it is expected to be among India’s biggest airports. Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone of the airport on November 25, 2021.
The site is strategically connected to NCR and Western UP: It is 72 km from IGI Airport, 40 km from Noida, and 130 km from Agra. It is also about 30 km from State Highway 22A (which connects Palwal and Aligarh) and 700 metres from the Yamuna Expressway. In addition, the 100-metre-wide Eastern Peripheral Expressway, passing through Yamuna Expressway at the Formula One Track, connects the site to Palwal, Manesar, Ghaziabad, Bhagpat and Meerut.
Over the next few months, passenger terminal buildings, office blocks, and electrical substations are scheduled to come up.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Yamuna Expressway Industrial Development Authority (YEIDA) Dr Arun Vir Singh is confident that construction will be completed before the scheduled date. “We have successfully completed more than 50% of the first phase. There are some minor delays in a few sectors, but we will be back on track by the next JCC (airport’s joint coordination committee meeting),” he said.
Keeping in mind the location of the project, the focus at present is on building connectivity.
“Currently, we are working on providing all-round connectivity to the airport via pod taxi, monorail and rapid rail. These will connect Greater Noida, Noida and Delhi to Jewar Airport. We have already provided office spaces to all on the airport premises. We will also provide residential accommodation and parking to designated Government of India agencies,” said the YEIDA CEO.
He added, “More than Rs 2,700 crore has been spent so far on construction. While helping decongest IGIA, the Noida airport will bring economic prosperity and excellent connectivity to the region. You will see improved industrialisation in the area, which would integrate the industries in the hinterland into the global value chains. It will also boost tourism.”
The latest progress report for the development of the Noida International Airport, as of August 31, 2023, accessed by The Indian Express, says that overall, about 50% of the work on the ground is complete.
Passenger Terminal Building: It is divided into five zones — two Pier Areas, two Head House Areas and a Forecourt Area, all of which are in different stages of completion.
The Airside: Part of an airport nearest to the aircraft, the boundary of which is the security check, customs, passport control, etc. It consists of important structures such as the Air Traffic Control (ATC), Airport Rescue & Firefighting (ARFF) services, Runway, Taxiway, among others.
Air Traffic Control: In late stages of completion, the raft of Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting services has been completed.
Runway: The foundation of the runway is complete for 3.7 km out of the total length of 3.9 km. Cement Treated Aggregate Permeable Base (CTPB), which is the final work for a runway, is completed for 500 metres. Drain work has also started between the runway and taxiway.
Taxiway: Work on the embankment top is complete for 3.7 km out of 3.9 km.
Work on the main receiving sub-station (MRSS) for power supply is also on track, as per the report.
During the last review meeting of the JCC on June 14, headed by UP Chief Secretary Durga Shanker Mishra, it was highlighted that while most of the work is on track, some things are lagging.
– For instance, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) was to complete the development of Concept of Operations — a blueprint for the operation of the airport — by the fourth quarter of 2022, but it is pending.
– Bureau of Immigration said the integrated security check proposal is under discussion. The report notes that “concurrence to the same to be communicated expeditiously”.
– The presentation also notes that space allocation has been agreed upon with the customs department and detailing of furniture requirements and workstations for each room is in progress.
The Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) said approval for security vetting was received on May 18 and a preliminary survey of Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) manpower has been completed. BCAS’s next plan is to develop a strategy for compliance with the mandate to deploy CTX (Computer Tomography X-Ray, a device to detect explosives) at passenger screening points.
As far as CISF is concerned, the report notes that procurement and field trials of special CISF vehicles and equipment such as bullet-proof vehicles, threat containment vehicles, and bomb detection and disposal squad vehicles have been initiated. Work on the allocation of space for plant and animal quarantine is ongoing.
At the JCC meeting, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) also said space planning is complete and IMD equipment and its location for the NIA are finalised. Equipment delivery at the site is to be completed by the fourth quarter of 2023 and installation and commissioning is expected to be completed by the first quarter of 2024.
The project is expected to cost Rs Rs 15,754 crore divided into four construction phases. The estimated cost for Phase 1 is Rs 5,730 crore.
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