City planners goof up, earmark Juhu airport land for park, sports complex

The Airport Authority of India (AAI) that operates the Juhu airport has found that the development planners of Mumbai have designated the airport land that has existed since 1928 as a 'public park and sports complex'.

Though the flaw in the development plan was first noticed by AAI in 2004 and has been brought to the notice of the state government umpteen times, no steps have been taken so far.

In July, AAI chairman V P Agarwal wrote a letter to the state government requesting them the rectify the flaw. "AAI has made several representations to the government asking them to notify the land for airport use. The state government is working on a new development plan for 2013 and reminders are being sent to get it rectified," said a senior government official, who declined to be identified.

After the chairman's letter, the AAI has been sending reminders every month but the state government has not responded to any of them. "They have acknowledged AAI's concern only in a meeting held with them," said the official. Incidentally, the airport land, spread over an area of 384.50 acres, was marked as 'public park and sports centre' in the development plan 1981-2001 for the Greater Mumbai City area too.

The Juhu airport is the oldest airport in the country and has an important historical context.

India's first scheduled commercial mail service, piloted by first Indian commercial pilots' licence holder J R D Tata, had landed at the airport. It also hosts one of the oldest flying clubs in Mumbai, the Bombay Flying Club.

Though 39 acres in two pockets have been encroached, the airport served as the main airport of Mumbai till Santa Cruz Airport, now Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, was built in 1948. Currently, the airport is used for charter service for helicopters and smaller aircraft. Pawan Hans and other private operators transport employees to an oil rig of ONGC Ltd.

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