On meeting Rajnath Singh, Union Defence Minister and Jyotiraditya Scindia Union Civil Aviation Minister, Goa’s Chief Minister, Dr Pramod Sawant assures that civilian operations at Dabolim will continue.
This year, during the monsoon session of the Goa Legislative Assembly, matters concerning the closure of Dabolim Airport was an important issue raised by the Assembly members. Citing Air India’s recent move to begin direct flights from Mopa to London’s Gatwick Airport, Curtorim MLA Aleixo Reginaldo Lourenco, through the calling attention motion, stated that this decision by the airline is a precursor to the eventual closure of Dabolim. Furthermore, he mentioned that a number of airlines were set to shift operations to Mopa.
Besides Lourenco, with Mopa Airport posing as a competition to Dabolim Airport, numerous legislators such as Leader of Opposition Yuri Alemao, Vijai Sardesai, Venzy Viegas, Altone D’Costa, Digambar Kamat, Aleixo Sequeira, Michael Lobo, Daji Salkar and the like, conveyed their worries that the latter airport could eventually shut down, thereby affecting South Goa’s tourism industry.
In a concession deal with GMR Group, the State had a revenue sharing clause wherein they could potentially profit if the air traffic got shifted to Mopa Airport, thereby ‘sacrificing’ Dabolim in the process, as stated by Fatorda representative, Vijai Sardesai, in the Legislative Assembly. Moreover, he had also cited a ‘flight management plan’ of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) that recommends the possibility of Dabolim and Mopa to co-exist in a sustainable manner, and said that the State Government did not have a plan towards the same, thus asserting that Dr Sawant had been providing false assurances, however the Chief Minister then had denied these claims.
In addition, Yuri Alemao informed the Assembly during the discussion that across the world it has been established that two airports would not be able to keep up if they are within close proximity to each other. He even mentioned a 1999 ICAO report that concerns Mopa and Dabolim, which highlighted the same idea for these airports. In addition, the Leader of Opposition had put forth that the involvement of the Civil Aviation Ministry would be necessary in order to ensure that the operations are maintained at Dabolim.
Venzy Viegas, Benaulim MLA, had maintained that in order to sustain operations at Dabolim and Mopa, the Government would have to incentivise airlines at Dabolim and thus would have to provide a guarantee for the same due to the expenses involved in ground operations.
Furthermore, in order to persuade the government, Altone D’Costa, Quepem MLA, had appealed that the State Government should see to it that charter flights would not get diverted to Mopa on grounds that a large section of South Goa’s hotel industry thrives on the charter business, and that the diversion could devastate the industry of the region.
However, Chief Minister Dr Pramod Sawant had addressed this issue stating that with the assurance from the Central Government, the Union Cabinet had passed a resolution towards the co-existence of Mopa and Dabolim and with the Tourism Minister, Rohan Khaunte, being in contact with the Union Civil Aviation Ministry, the State Government is committed to keep Dabolim Airport permanently operational.
“We will formally take up the issue with the Civil Aviation Ministry and also the Defence Ministry. If need be, we can take an all-party delegation to press the Central Government,” Dr Sawant declared.
Moreover, he had also mentioned that the flights which are currently operating from at the Dabolim airport will not be permitted to be diverted to Mopa with the exception of new flights that are scheduled from a new destination. The limits placed on Dabolim civilian operations is controlled by the Indian Navy and has been the case for many years, however, Dabolim MLA who is the Transport and Industries Minister, Mauvin Godinho, held the Mopa Airport concessionaire, GMR Limited, responsible for pushing the Navy to block Dabolim’s civilian aircrafts. Nonetheless, Godinho was certain that the issue will be put to rest with the Chief Minister’s guarantee to deliberate over the matter with the Union Government.
On 25th August, Dr Sawant, Sadanand Shet Tanawade (Rajya Sabha MP), Mauvin Godinho, and Rohan Khaunte, met with Rajnath Singh, Union Defence Minister and Jyotiraditya Scindia, Union Civil Aviation Minister at New Delhi. After which, on receiving the assurance of the Union Defence Minister, Dr Sawant confirmed that civilian operations at Dabolim will continue. He also mentioned that the Central Government has been investing on expanding the infrastructure of Dabolim and that the government had persuaded the Center to reduce Dabolim buffer zones to 50 metres from 200 metres.
Moreover, he informed, “The Defence Minister said that he will organise one more meeting with the Defence in-charge in Goa…we are resolving this issue so that people wanting to construct houses there get licences more easily.”
Director and Senior Vice President of Heritage Village Resort and Spa, Guitry Velho, says, “We are thankful to our Chief Minister, Dr Sawant for reassuring us that Dabolim airport will continue operations. This is critical to the survival of the entire hospitality industry in the whole of South Goa and it will be key to the main segments like FIT/MICE and weddings to continue to view and book South Goa as a destination. It will also be wonderful for us South Goa citizens that Dabolim continues, as we can directly fly out from this airport which is very accessible to all of us”.