By R. Chandra Prakash
There is a demand for an International Airport for Mysuru from business leaders and also a few people’s representatives. Tentatively its location is proposed near K. Shettihalli, beyond Srirangapatna on the Mysuru-Bengaluru Highway. While justifying their demand, availability of 900 acres of Government land and the future growth of the business and industry in Mysuru are indicated. However, an issue like an International Airport needs more serious grounds than what are stated in their demand.
Kempegowda International Airport: A missed opportunity
Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) in Bengaluru has today become country’s second busiest airports. It has earned high accolades for its technological advances and user-friendly infrastructure and services.
However, its location at Devanahalli, a far away corner of Bengaluru, practically bordering Andhra Pradesh, has always defied logic. An ideal location would have been somewhere within the triangle of Hassan-Mysuru-Bengaluru. This would have provided equidistant proximity to three populous cities, and also to Kodagu. This location would have been most cost-effective to the travellers from these cities. Today even for Bengalureans, who were enjoying the earlier closer location at HAL, Devanahalli is a distant place. It is this distant location of KIA which has now prompted a demand for a separate International Airport for Mysuru.
Scientific grounds needed
An International Airport needs huge investments. Obviously, neither the Union Government nor the State Government will be in a position to generate that amount of investments. And this means, like in the case of KIA, it could only be a Public-Private Partnership model. For this to fructify, one has to substantiate the short-term and long-term cost benefit of a given location. Availability of land is only one of the variables.
A jinxed airport at Mandakalli
The development of Mysore Airport at Mandakalli is yet another example of short-sightedness of the authorities. It did not generate adequate traffic for a long time. Several private airlines withdrew their services for want of adequate traffic. Due to limited services, both in terms of number and places, people did not patronage it. But once UDAN scheme created necessary traffic, things have picked up and even the private airlines are now showing interest.
The basic problem of the Mysore Airport at Mandakalli was the limited size of the runway, which was mainly due to short-term goals and investments. Land prices soared once the decision was made to expand the runway. Proximity of a Highway to the airport posed yet another problem. Over a period of time, this airport was fully surrounded by residential layouts which once again became a safety issue. Therefore, runway expansion did not take place and bigger planes cannot land and services to distant places cannot be provided. It is a jinxed airport as of now.
For the very reason which failed this airport to function as an efficient inter-city service provider, will also plague the possibility of its being converted into an International Airport. This means that a new location has to be identified for proposed International Airport.
An ideal location
The present distance between Hassan and KIA is about 238 kms, between Mysuru and KIA is about 188 kms and between Madikeri (Kodagu) and KIA is more than 250 kms. And it is not merely the distance, but the time taken and uncertainty of safe traffic to reach KIA which are bigger issues.
Therefore, an ideal location for the proposed International Airport should be somewhere between the three cities of Mysuru-Hassan-Madikeri. Depending upon the availability of adequate land and its costs, a location between Ramanathapura and Kikkeri belt should be an ideal choice. This area is within 60-70 kms from all the three cities. And the total population of these three cities and more so three districts of Mysuru, Mandya and Hassan will generate adequate traffic, both national and international.
Keeping in mind the expansion of international and inter-State air traffic, KIA is going to reach its optimal level within next ten years. And that should be the time that a new International Airport comes up to catering to the needs of ever-increasing air traffic. We cannot forget that new International Airport at Kannur, Kerala, is nearer to Mysuru and Kodagu than KIA is today. Kannur will surely obstruct any proposal that we may make. If we do not address this issue properly today we will miss a great opportunity and remain with only KIAs — Kempegowda International Airport and Kannur International Airport. And, of course, remain with a jinxed Mandakalli Airport.