ISLAMABAD: The Aviation Division on Friday informed the National Assembly standing committee on planning, development and reforms that 80 per cent work on the New Islamabad Airport is complete and the facility would be operational in the last quarter of 2016.
However, a senior officer of the division had no satisfactory answer when asked how water would be arranged for the airport.
The airport project was conceived in 1984 for which the acquisition of land started near Fatehjang the same year.
Secretary Aviation Division Mohammad Ali Gardezi has no satisfactory answer to questions about airport water supply
In 2004, the then prime minister, Shaukat Aziz, inaugurated the work on the project. But the construction of the airport was started without the approval of any design.
The PC-I of Rs37 billion was approved in 2008 but it did not contain the establishment of the fuel system, radar and radio control building, aprons, sewage treatment plants, supply of electricity and water to the airport.
The new airport with 90 check-in counters and a parking facility for 2,000 vehicles will cater to nine million people every year.
Secretary Aviation Division Mohammad Ali Gardezi assured the committee that the airport would be completed in the last quarter of 2016.
In reply to questions, Mr Gardezi said initially the government of Punjab had agreed to supply water to the airport from Shahpur Dam in the Attock district. However, as the project faced delays, the provincial government diverted the water to the agriculture and residential sectors.
“Now the provincial government has refused to provide water from the dam to the airport. We have proposed that three small dams should be constructed to store rainwater but that water would be sufficient only for four months. There is another proposal to construct a big dam,” he said.
MNA Dr Nafisa Shah said she was not convinced that the airport would be operational even by the end of 2016.
“It is unfortunate that the basic necessity of water could not be arranged for such an important project,” she said.
Mr Gardezi said the cost of the project had increased from Rs37 billion to Rs81 billion. It might go up further due to the devaluation of the rupee and the price hikes. So far, he added, Rs40 billion had been spent on the project.
In reply to another question, the official attributed the delay in the completion of the project to the late appointment of the design consultant, the absence of an access road and the illegal occupation of the land acquired for the airport.
Mr Gardezi said the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) had proposed to construct an access road from Golra Chowk to the airport, passing through sector E-16, E-17 and Haji Chowk. The proposed road would be 14.5 kilometres but due to unknown reasons it was decided that Margalla Avenue would be extended to the airport. The approved road passes through a number of housing societies,” he said.
Secretary Planning and Development Division Hassan Nawaz Tarar said the Cabinet Division on February 20, 2015, had requested his ministry to include the widening of Kashmir Highway from Golra Chowk to G.T. Road in the new airport road project being executed by NHA.
“It has been decided that the widening of Kashmir Highway will be included in the airport project,” he said, adding Rs1.2 billion were required for it.
MNA Sheikh Salahuddin told Dawn that it was strange that the issues of access road and water supply could not be resolved. All these basic requirements should have been included in the PC-I. “Now another Rs1.2 billion will be utilised for the construction of the access road,” he said.
Published in Dawn, March 14th, 2015