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Construction : Case Study | March 2016 | Source : Infrastructure Today

A trendsetting airport

The world´s first solar-powered airport has many distinctions and is now a case study at IIM Ahmedabad, IIM Kozhikode and Harvard University.
Apart from being India´s first PPP greenfield airport, Cochin International Airport is also the world´s first solar-powered airport. The three plants of varying capacity generating 50,000 to 60,000 units of electricity daily is able to meet the airport´s total power requirements. The airport´s development - based on a unique funding concept and rehabilitation package - is a case study at Harvard University, IIM Ahmedabad and IIM Kozhikode.

Conceived in 1991, Kochi International Airport Society (KIAS) was established under the Charitable Societies Act. After nearly a decade-long struggle, the airport, constructed at a cost of Rs.300 crore at Nedumbasserry, was inaugurated in May 1999. The first flight took off in June the same year.

Challenges ranged from fund-raising to land acquisition and a difficult terrain that was waterlogged with weak and unpredictable subsoil. ´Since the National Airport Authority (NAA) was unable to invest in the project and the state government also unable to shoulder the full financial burden, mobilising funds, estimated at a Rs 200 crore in 1993, was a major challenge. ´VJ Kurian, then District Collector of Ernakulam, (now Founder MD of Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL)), conceptualized the novel idea of funding the development with the joint financial participation of airport users (mainly non-resident Indians), airport service providers and the government´ recalls ACKNair, Airport Director, CIAL.

The scheme involved availing an interest-free loan of Rs.5,000 for six years, from individuals. For repayment of the deposit, half the amount was used for purchasing Kissan Vikas Patra (a government savings scheme that doubles the amount in 5 + years).The remaining half was to be utilised for funding the project. Estimates were about Rs.200 crore would be collected. However, by 1993, only around Rs 4 crore had been mobilised. Since KIAS, being a charitable society, had limitations for raising funds, CIAL was formed in 1994 as a public limited company, which could raise large equity investments. However, mobilisation continued to be difficult, especially due to the negative campaign against the project. Later, however, Federal Bank (with a bridge loan of Rs.10 crore), HUDCO (with a term loan of Rs.98 crore), and the Government of Kerala (with equity investment of Rs.1 crore) came to the rescue. An area of 1,253 acres of land (required for the project), belonged to 3,824 land owners, all of whom opposed the acquisition with the support of local leaders. Adequate funds were not available to pay compensation to project affected people (PAP) which made matters worse. ´Again, a novel scheme was introduced wherein the land owners were offered negotiated rates for their property. All those who handed over their land were entitled to several rehabilitation benefits, including the free-hold title of a 6 per cent developed property free of cost. This unique rehabilitation package, which later became a case study for World Bank, worked wonders. As many as 719 persons came forward for negotiated settlements´, explains Nair.

By 1997, substantial land was in CIAL´s possession but some land owners still held on and challenged the process in court. More than 400 cases were filed but CIAL won all the cases including a few at the Supreme Court. This infrastructure project owes its success to Kurian who dared to dream differently and worked assiduously to fulfil that dream with his team.

Designed on the lines of Kerala´s traditional architecture, the airport recorded a cumulative annual growth rate of nearly 20 per cent in the initial eight years. Thereafter, passenger grew at 12 per cent, touching 6.45 million passengers in 2014-15.

The airport handles more than 1,100 aircraft movements per week.

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