Tourists who come from across the world to laze around in the balmy beaches of Goa will now have another attraction - it will have not one but two airports.
The cabinet will soon take up a proposal to let the existing Indian Navy airport to operate even after the new airport in north Goa comes up.
"We are in favour of operating the existing as well as the proposed airport. The state government and the Navy, which owns the existing airport, are also in favour of operating both the airports," said a senior civil aviation ministry official who did not want to be identified.
A new airport is being built at Mopa near the Maharashtra border on Goa's northern tip with private participation. The existing airport, owned by the Navy and operated by the Airport Authority of India (AAI), is situated at Dabolim in south Goa. At present, the Goa airport handles 2.7 million passengers annually.
This will be first instance when an old airport will continue to operate even after a new airport has been built. The old airports in Bangalore and Hyderabad, for instance, were closed because they could have impacted the earnings of the new airports.
In Goa, there was resistance to shifting the commercial airport to the north as it would have impacted tourism in the south. Hence, the need was felt to keep both the airports going.
A new airport was needed in Goa as the present airport cannot be upgraded to handle the higher traffic Goa is expected to attract in the near future. Also, there is no scope for construction of a cargo area.
The government plans to build 35 new airports across the country. New airports in Sikkim and Karnataka are scheduled to come up in the next two years. Airports at Navi Mumbai and Sindhudurg in Maharashtra, one each in Kerala, West Bengal, Arunachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh (for cargo) have been accorded in-principle approval.
Further, proposals for setting up of three new airports in Maharashtra, one each in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Puducherry, Nagaland and Rajasthan have been received, apart from the proposal to set up a cargo airport in Haryana.