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The first place to look for additional land for Dabolim

is to encourage Karnataka / AAI / Indian Navy to
expand capacity at their new Karwar airport



The two-airport option is stupid. With four new

airports coming up within around 100 km, it is
difficult to justify a sixth airport in the vicinity


Can Goa sustain two airports? If Mopa does come up, will Dabolim eventually have to shut down? And is Dabolim really inadequate for Goas expanding tourism requirements? As the debate gets more
contentious, this article, by a consultant, examines and analyses all these issues dispassionately to make a case for why Goa should go with only one airport the current one at Dabolim


he chief ministers of Goa over

the last four years, Digambar
Kamat and Manohar Parrikar,
seem determined to develop a new
airport at Mopa. The few stated reasons for this follows the classic FUD
format - Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.
These include :
l Dabolim airport will be saturated
at three million passengers a year. We
will soon have six million passengers
a year. Wide bodied aircraft cannot
land at Dabolim.
l It is better to have a second airport. Regional airports are doing
well. It reduces travel distances.
l We can create an export hub at
the airport. We can also create a food
processing area.
l The Mopa land anyway has a
bauxite mining lease on it. It is preferable to build an airport there instead.
As I will show below, these are bogus. A government serious about Goa
and what can be implemented, would
spend its time on Dabolim and not
acquire vast tracts of land needlessly
for a second airport.

A. Dabolim



Large airports usually have multiple runways. A quick look at the map
of Dabolim shows that there is no
space for a second runway at the minimum distance of around 1+ km. So is
the single runway the constraint?
The largest single-runway airport
is Gatwick Airport serving London
and surrounding areas. In the period
January-December 2012, Gatwick
served 34.2 million passengers with a
single runway. Dabolim, by contrast,
served only 3.5 million passengers
in April 2011-March 2012. (Heres
a good satellite picture of Gatwick.
Note the cargo complex as well as
the number of aerobridges. Also note
that the airport terminals and facilities are concentrated on a single side
of the runway with a small section on
the other side.)
Lets look at some comparative statistics for Gatwick and Dabolim:


of the runway.

The Naval timing restrictions

constraint capacity:
It is possible that in 2005, this was
a significant constraint (when night
operations were largely not permitted). However, the navy has been progressively broadening the timings
for civilian operations. If we examine
capacity in two blocks, we have the
night hours of say 10pm-6am. This
would be used principally by international flights, especially charters.
There are no constraints on movements at this time. Of the remaining
16 hours that see peak domestic traffic (6am-10pm), around five hours
are taken up by the navy. That still
permits 11 hours of day time operations. At a conservative 20 movements for 11 hours for 365 days, and
six movements for eight hours for 365
days, we get a total of around 98,000
movements. This should be easily
achievable, and would take passenger throughput to around 12 million
from the current 3.5 million.
Inadequate aircraft parking
space / terminal capacity.
The new Integrated Passenger Terminal at Dabolim has a 22 aircraft
stands (instead of 11), and covers
61,957 sq mt. Extrapolating from
Gatwick, this should be adequate to
service around seven million passengers a year. Capacity needs beyond
that, will need an expansion of both
the aircraft stands as well as terminal

l Lack of other infrastructure like

fuel tanking, etc.
This is currently constrained due
to perceived land availability.

l Lack of connectivity infrastructure to / from the airport.

Dabolim is actually a very well located airport. It is reasonably in the
centre of the state (although too far
west). Maximum travel time to the
three extremities (North, East and
South) are approximately similar.
This image shows Dabolim and Mopa
in context of Goa. If we did not have
any airport in Goa, the ideal spot

34.2 MN
3,316 M X 45M
258,000 SQ MTR
168 RS (24X7)

It is clear that 34 million is far in excess of any foreseeable needs of Goa.

Let us look at the possible constraints
to the Dabolim capacity.

3.5 MN
3,458 M X 45 M

15,987 SQ MTR
145.5 HOURS (24X7

would have been Dabolim as discussed below.

Unable to handle large Code-F

aircraft (A380/747-8).
The number of passengers per
aircraft is quite similar between
Gatwick (134 in 2011) and Dabolim
(128). Hence, it is not really aircraft
size that is a constraint on capacity.
Further, upgradation of the runway
width to 60m with shoulders, etc.
should be possible given that the
area immediately surrounding the
runway is unused or can be moved to
other locations. The new taxiway has
been designed with the Code-F horizontal separation of 190m (although
it would need widening).

Other landing/take-off infrastructure puts a constraint on

number of flight movements per
There are many ways to increase
runway capacity. This could include
CAT-I ILS instead of CAT-III, or control tower specifications, etc. It is
hard to see why this cannot be upgraded to increase capacity. In particular, the taxiway may need to be
extended (through the Naval Golf
Course) and High Speed or Rapid
Exit Taxiways. Potentially, a taxiway
needs to be built on the terminal side

a. Nearby city (so that staff have

a place to live and enjoy social life).
Vasco is a stones throw from Dabolim. There is no city close to Mopa.
Mapusa is quite some distance.
b. Roads: NH4B passes next to

the airport, giving rapid access to

Ponda and the hinterland.
NH4B also meets NH17 a short distance from the airport. As soon as
NH17 is broadened to a 4 lane divided
highway (which Mopa also requires),
there will be speedy access to most
parts of Goa.

c. Rail: The Vasco - Madgaon railway line passes adjacent to the airport. It would be easy to add direct
access to a station from the airport
terminal. In the medium term, Goa
may consider rapid transit lines radiating from Dabolim towards Colem,
Canacona and Pernem. This will be
assisted greatly if the railway loop
between Cansaulim and Verna fructifies.

d. Water: Mormugao harbour is

very close to Dabolim, with good road
and rail access between the two. It is
feasible to consider rapid transit between the harbour and the airport,
and a series of high-speed ferries
from Mormugao onwards to Dona
Paula/Panjim, to Aguada and to the
Malim jetty at the base of the Mandovi bridge headed onto NH17 north.
e. Fuel, power, water:
Airports need large amounts of aviation fuel, as well as energy for powering its services. Dabolim can easily be supplied aviation fuel through
Mormugao / Indian Oil Tanking. Similarly, with the new GAIL pipeline to
Zuari, a highly efficient fuel source is
available for powering airport operations. Water is also more easily available as the catchment areas of Goa
are accessible to Dabolim (whereas
for Mopa, these are in Maharashtra).
On reviewing the above, it is clear
that land availability for parking /
terminals / other infrastructure is
the only constraint to the expansion
of Dabolim to cover all foreseeable
needs (unless there is some other
over-riding technical hard

n Sindhudurg Airport (at ChipiParule) is far ahead of Mopa. IRB

Infrastructure Developers Ltd is
developing the airport under a PPP
model. They have incorporated IRB
Sindhudurg Airport Pvt Ltd, have
receivedenvironmental clearances,
have acquired the land (271 hectares)
and have commenced construction
with a project cost of Rs 571 crore. It
is scheduled to be completed before
the 2014 elections. It is planned to
have a runway length of 3170 metres,
long enough for even 747s. This area
will obviously serve Sindhudurg District of Maharashtra, including tourist
spots of Malvan/Sindhudurg, Sawantwadi, Amboli, as well as potentially
parts of Pernem Taluka in Goa. Since
construction has started, we should
assign a high probability to the completion of this airport.
n Karwar Airport is currently
planned to be a small facility of 52
hectares with an airstrip serving helicopters and Dornier-228. This would
require a runway of at most 1,000
metres. Since this is an integral part
of Project Seabird, it has a high probability of fructifying. Further, the
Karnataka Government has proposed
a civilian enclave, which would entail
acquisition of a further 75 hectares
for a cost of Rs 20 crore (2007 figures). This would permit a runway
of 2,500 metres which would allow
A-320 and Boeing 737s to operate. The
catchment area of this airport would
be Karwar, Ankola, Gokarn, and Canacona taluka of Goa (being closer than
Dabolim, let alone Mopa). The process
of land acquisition for the civil enclave
doesnt seem to have started. However, given the low costs of expansion to
a serviceable civilian airport, and the
likely development of the area due to
Project Seabird and the lack of other
airports along the Karnataka coast
except Mangalore far to the south, we
should assume a reasonable probability of it fructifying.

B.Airports in the Region

A quick look at the existing airports shows

that apart from Dabolim,
the closest airports with
a reasonable frequency
of scheduled flights are
Pune and Mumbai to the
north, and Bangalore,
Mangalore and Mysore to
the south. On the east, the
nearest airport would be
Hyderabad. Consequently,
Dabolim presently serves
a huge hinterland, extending from as far away as
Ratnagiri, Kolhapur, Belgaum, Dharwad, Hubli, Gokarn, Ankola and Karwar.
This large hinterland has
a very significant population and air traffic can be
expected to grow rapidly.

Existing airports being upgraded

and reactivated
Belgaum Airport has restarted
handling only ATR-72 aircraft due to
constraints in its apron space. This
is being upgraded to handle 737s.
The Government of Karnataka has
proposed making Belgaum the second capital of the State of Karnataka.
In this light, it is fair to assume that
Belgaum airport will be developed
significantly in future. Belgaum has at
least four major road
routes into Goa - via
Anmod Ghat, via Chorla Ghat, via Dodamarg
and via Amboli Ghat.
Consequently, it is
easy to envisage road
would permit easy
access to multiple locations in Goa from
Belgaum airport. Certainly, passenger traffic through Dabolim
bound for Belgaum
would be diverted to
the upgraded airport.
Hubli Airport is also
being upgraded to be
able to serve Boeing
737s and A-320s. Passenger traffic through
Dabolim bound for
Hubli-Dharwad and
its region would be
diverted to the upgraded airport. The road connections
from Hubli into Goa are presently of
rather poor quality.
Proposed airports (under construction)

This map give a good perspective

on existing and proposed airports in
the vicinity of Goa. The four new airports form a ring around Dabolim,
between 70 and 120 km apart. They
are all designed to serve Code-C aircraft, i.e., 737s/A320s and smaller.
This is the overwhelming majority
of all domestic air traffic. Hence, it is
clear that with these new airports,
Dabolim will lose its hinterland outside Goa (except for international

C. Goas options

The two-airport option is stupid.

It is obvious that with four new airports coming up within around 100
km, it is difficult to justify a sixth
airport in the vicinity. The air traffic
is simply not there, especially since
there is adequate land around each of
Sindhudurg, Belgaum, Hubli and Karwar airports for further expansion
to support wide-bodied aircraft. Personally, I think it is impossible to arrange any project financing for Mopa,
given the greenfield nature of the
airport, the new airports coming up
around, and the continuation of operations at Dabolim. It is impossible to
justify Mopa simply on 1,000 charter
flights a year, or even 5,000 charter
flights (assuming a huge expansion of
international flights).
Further, the ICAO Report in 2007
clearly states that the two-airport
option is a poor second-best option
compared to a single airport option.
We also need to learn from the experience in Bangalore, Hyderabad and
Mumbai, where two-airport options
were considered but finally only a
single-airport option was viable.
Single airport option

Therefore, Goa has the following

single-airport options before it:
l Continue

to develop Dabolim.
The key constraint here seem to
be the availability of land for aircraft
stands and terminal buildings, and
related facilities. We will examine
this later. Note that the total area of
Dabolim airport (576 hectares) is not
very different from that of Gatwick
(674 hectares). The constraint is the
land availability for civilian use.

l Develop only Mopa and close

down Dabolim.
This has presently been ruled out
by the chief minister. However, since
a two-airport strategy is completely
unfeasible, we need to examine this
strategy. In general, a new airport in
the present situation would also not
be financeable. However, if the State
government is willing to provide
large scale financial support (viability-gap financing), then any project
can be made financially viable.

Mopa negatives
Mopa suffers from a number of negative features compared to Dabolim.

To enumerate a few :
l It is not centrally
located. Mopa is located
at one extreme end of
Goa. While it will benefit people from Pernem, Bardez, Bicholim
and Sattari talukas, it
will increase the travel
time and travel cost for
all others. For people of
Sangeum, Quepem and
Canacona talukas, this
will be a disaster.
l Poor road connectivity. A new road needs
to be constructed till
NH17. However, it remains a great distance
from NH4A/4B and
from the main industrial estates of Goa.
l Poor rail connectivity. While the Konkan
railway is not too far, it
is on the plains and not
on the plateau. Building
a spur line would cost considerable
l No water connectivity. Mopa is
distant from any port.
l No town to support the thousands of people working at the airport. Whole new townships will be
needed for Mopa in the Pernem taluka.
l No easy access to water. One of
the key justifications for Mopa has
been the possibility of creating a food
processing zone. However, a look at
the map of Goa and its surrounding
areas will show few water sources
near Mopa that are within Goa. The
Chapora river is already tapped at Tillari. The Tiracol river is still available,
but as it essentially forms the border
with Maharashtra, any large scale extraction of water will require intense
discussions with Maharashtra.
l Risk of clearances, public protests, etc that can delay or block
completion. Like Dabolim, Mopa is
built on a plateau (also called sadas).
Unlike Dabolim, Mopa is a greenfield
project on a sada with no development. It is well known in environmental circles that the sadas have higher
biodiversity than even the Western
Ghats. Consequently, we must assume in a State like Goa that there are
significant risks of not receiving the
plethora of required environmental
clearances as would be needed for a
large scale development on Mopa plateau.
As is obvious, Mopa can be justified only if there is absolutely no way
Dabolim cannot be scaled up. This
requires the identification of land at

D. Additional space for Dabolim expansion

The first place to look for additional land for Dabolim is to encourage Karnataka / AAI / Indian Navy to
expand capacity at their new Karwar
airport. It may be possible to shift
some of the aircraft (ideally the fighters, but possibly the Ilyushin IL-38s)
to Karwar. A proactive Goa Government can even finance purchase the
land for the runway expansion and
the expansion of the Naval enclave,
as it will surely be cheaper land than
close to Dabolim.
A quick look at the map of Dabolim and its surrounding areas shows
that while a good chunk of land is
reserved by the Navy for its operations, another very significant parcel
of land, possibly much larger, is occupied by the Naval staff residences
and associated facilities. In the past,
discussions with the Navy around
expansion of the civil enclave has
been around land swaps. Let us look
at this map closely for some solutions. In it, I have marked out areas
in navy blue that can be used to expand the civil enclave in the airport.
In green, I have marked out areas in
the vicinity which seem to be undeveloped or lightly developed. Surely

some of these areas can be used for

a land swap with the navy? There is
actually sufficient land to also build
the conferencing centre (which Goa
desperately requires), as well as the
food processing hub.



A determined politician would make

this possible. After all, skill in politics
is to pull of complex deals like this.

E. Other Considerations

Lastly, our government has been

claiming with regards to the buffer zone around wild life sanctuaries that the State has very little land
for development. In this situation,
it would surely be wise to reserve
Mopa for other development, such
as an institutional zone reserved for
universities and related research
institutions, industries and their ancillaries. Areas of concentration for
these universities could include tourism (including heritage management
and conservation), pharmaceuticals,
ecology, and fine and performing
arts (music, art, architecture, drama,
fashion, design etc).
Surely, if the State government can
return land to a son of our soil, by not
having an additional airport, we will
surely reduce the land acquired from
many sons of our soil. That is in the
public interest.

F. Our politicians are not stupid, why are they still pushing
for Mopa ?

One possible explanation is that

the situation in 2005, when the first
feasibility study for Mopa was done,
was very different. There were significant constraints on Dabolim capacity - no night flights, and a large
chunk of time blocked during daylight hours. Further, none of the four
projects, i.e., Sindhudurg, Belgaum,
Hubli or Karwar airports, were being
considered. Since then, we are suffering from some sort of endowment effect, where it is no longer feasible to
change its stance.
The writer is a start-up consultant
based in Goa. A link to more details
in this article is available at http://