Mumbai project to rehouse 350,000

The consortium that is redeveloping Mumbai’s congested airport on Tuesday took the first step towards what will be one of the largest slum clearance exercises in India’s history.

The $1.7bn (£836m) redevelopment of the airport, which some believe is operating at 25 per cent overcapacity, is seen as a critical test of India’s ability to overcome the infrastructure problems that are threatening to hold back the country’s growth.

The consortium, including India’s GVK and Airports Company South Africa, said it had awarded to an Indian developer, Housing Development and Infrastructure, the contract to clear slums housing 350,000 people on the airport site.

The government has said the country needs investment of $490bn in infrastructure over the next 10 years to maintain growth running at more than 9 per cent.

Mumbai airport handles about 18m passengers and 400,000 tonnes of cargo a year but is rapidly being overwhelmed by a boom in air traffic in India. It is not uncommon for aircraft flying into Mumbai to circle above the city for half an hour waiting for landing slots.

Passenger traffic in India grew 15 per cent a year on average over the past five years while India’s airlines are expected to add about 400 aircraft over the next five years, according to KPMG, the accountancy firm.

The MIAL consortium has been charged with expanding the airport capacity to 40m passengers and 1m tonnes of cargo by 2010 through the creation of a new terminal building and cargo facilities and an increase in runway capacity.

However, the slums on 276 acres of the 2,000-acre site make improvements to the runways and efforts to build additional facilities, such as hotels, difficult.

The slum dwellers will be rehoused in apartments built by the developer.

However, politicians representing the slum dwellers have said they would oppose the plan unless the slum dwellers were relocated to areas near their present homes – a tough condition in a city in which land is at a premium.

“MIAL plans to go beyond the minimum requirement as per the state government scheme while providing infrastructure to the resettled slum dwellers,” the consortium said, without giving details.

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