Opinion

Make Delhi re-development sustainable with vertical building growth off Safdarjung Airport

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The capital city Delhi often faces issues that come on the way its sustainable urban development. These issues range from illegal construction to design and re-development to make Delhi Green.

A classic recent example of public interest is the re-development issue at Sarojini Nagar and Netaji Nagar which can go for multistorey buildings to reduce construction cost, and more availability of ground coverage for landscaping.

Recently, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has stopped all construction by NBCC in these areas for cutting trees. This has been widely reported in media with local people having demonstrations and candle matches etc.

As a practical solution, emphasis should be accorded to allow vertical growth of buildings to avoid cutting of trees and allow more area for green coverage to ensure sustainable growth of the city-state.

Near-by Safdarjung Airport is being treated as an active airport for clearances for Building heights etc. but as on date, there are neither any chances for any commercial flights from Safdarjung Airport nor for any sustained flight operations for VVIP / VIP and or Private flight operations.

This is primarily because of the location of the PM’s House at Race Course Road, now a permanent location for the PM’s residence as even the Teen Murti House, originally the earmarked residence of the Prime Minister, is now being developed as a memorial to all Ex PMs.

Operationally the already small airport runway has a displaced Threshold, due to the “Safdarjung flyover” constructed in 1973/74 and the landing run/landing distance is almost only half of the actual runway with approaches from the other end restricted due to the Diplomatic area underneath. This is despite the Low height street lights on the Flyover or else the landings will never be possible from this end too.

The AAI has just got removed the so-called “Flying Club” from Safdarjung Airport after a very tedious legal process (recent Newspaper reports) and with this, the last chance of using the airport as a flying training institute has also finally been eliminated.

The airport is being used by Pawan Hans Helicopters as a Regional Headquarter office with some repair services of their helicopters – all these operations will soon be shifted, if not already shifted, to the Rohini Heliport of the Pawan Hans and with central Headquarters of the company located at Noida only a regional Head-quarters office can possibly be located at Safdarjung Airport.

As on date, Chief Ministers of UP, Haryana, Punjab, Uttarakhand etc sometimes make use of this runway for their small airplanes and for these few isolated operations the entire development of this part of the city is restrained in height clearances.

The last but not the least reason to believe that the proposal is to close this airport for all its operations in the construction of the Additional huge building (“Block D” of Rajiv Gandhi Bhawan) for the offices of the DGCA, BCAS and AERA etc.

(Consolidating the Civil Aviation Sector offices at one location for possible single window clearances for civil Aviation Projects) and Expansion of the office area for the Ministry of Civil Aviation and may be the Airports Authority of India – this almost makes the entire area as the commercial/business area for the Civil Aviation related Govt. offices and thus this airport can almost no longer be used as an airport.

To add to this the Airports Authority of India’s Officers Institute is planned to get a boost in its facilities and this lies almost to the left of the other end of the Safdarjung Airport Runway

That we are still treating Safdarjung Airport as an active airport and restricting the development of the surrounding area, including enforcing the height restrictions for the important project of developing the World Trade Centre, appears like closing our eyes to the stark reality by continuing to stick to the old rules not taking reality into account – Only the Prime Minister seems to be interested in getting rid of the old rules and regulations and none of his colleagues, subordinates or the bureaucracy under him considers this as their responsibility.

At best the Safdarjung Airport will if at all, be a Helipad for the PM’s house for movements to Palam Airport ( The concept in vogue at White House in Washington, USA) and this is how the concept of an “Airport” at Safdarjung needs to be viewed and accordingly the proposals for the likes of World Trade Centre dealt with.

It is high time that the government takes a fresh look at the issue instead of continuing with the way it is treated as on date. It is not too late to review the World Trade Centre concept for a tall and more elegant Building and other such projects in the vicinity of the Safdarjung Airport.

In conclusion, it can be said the non-functional Safdarjung Airport should not clip vertical heights of upcoming multi-storeyed buildings in nearby locations under re-development urban projects. Otherwise, Delhi’s development initiative bleeds on administrative logjams!

A Delhi based freelancer. Views expressed are personal.

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