The development of Water Aerodromes and commercial operations of Seaplanes is going to change the dynamics of transportation in the country
Passenger air-traffic in India has been growing at a fast pace in the last few years. To meet growing traffic demand, extensive expansion of existing infrastructure has been planned in the next five years. Infrastructure Development being highly cost intensive, the possibility of developing water aerodromes and commercial operations of seaplanes have been explored.
Seaplane Landing Sites, referred as water aerodromes can be planned on water bodies (both sea and in the land) at much less cost and time, as compared to land-based airports. Further, it does not require physical construction of runway, apron and the allied infrastructure of a land-based airport. Presently, water aerodromes are operating successfully in countries like Canada, USA, Maldives etc.
STIMULATING AIR CONNECTIVITY
Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) was launched to stimulate regional air connectivity by making flying affordable for a common man. The objective henceforth has been to establish an integrated eco-system leading to significant growth of the civil aviation sector, which in turn would promote tourism, increase employment and lead to balanced regional growth.
In the purview of the same, Airports Authority of India (AAI) under the guidance of the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA), Government of India has come up with the novel idea of water aerodromes and seaplanes, connecting remote places of tourist importance where constructing an airport is difficult and not very costeffective.
Though, the concept is being practised elsewhere in the world already, the introduction of water aerodromes is ready to give Indian Civil Aviation a new dimension under the third phase of the RCS scheme Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik (UDAN).
A New Dimension
India is dotted with numerous water bodies, which can be explored for the establishment of water aerodrome. A network of water aerodromes along with land-based airports will not only improve air connectivity but also be particularly useful for localised shortdistance air travelling.
Water aerodromes will be developed within the ambit of aviation expertise of AAI and cooperation of the State Government. Initially, places of tourism and religious importance located near still water bodies are identified for setting up water aerodromes and pre-feasibility study was carried out at various sites by a muti-disciplinary team comprising of officers from different disciplines of AAI, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and Airlines.
The project has taken inspiration from the Maldives Prototypes, where water aerodromes and seaplanes are highly successful. A study tour was undertaken under the leadership of senior official of MoCA to get an in-depth insight into the functioning of water aerodromes. Under the third phase of UDAN, routes for eleven water aerodromes have been awarded to prospective bidders for offering connectivity.
SITES FOR IMPLEMENTATION
AAI has considered still water bodies like lakes, reservoirs, dams and rivers in the very first phase of the project. Accordingly, air routes for Nagarjuna Sagar in Telangana, Umrangso Reservoir and Guwahati River Front in Assam, Statue of Unity (Sardar Sarovar Dam), Sabarmati River Front and Shatrunjay Dam in Gujarat and Umiam Lake in Meghalaya have been awarded for seaplane operations under RCS UDAN – 3.0.
After detailed learning of the best practices required for the development and management of the seaplane operations, the sites near the sea in Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep Islands were also identified. Thereafter, three locations – Swaraj (earlier known as Havelock) Island, Shaheed (earlier known as Neil) Island and Long Island in Andaman & Nicobar Islands have been awarded routes under UDAN 3.1. The new entry to the list is Prakasham Barrage in Andhra Pradesh that has also been awarded air route under the same. The selected sites under UDAN 3.0 and 3.1 are being kept under the prioritised sector where all the developments are taking place simultaneously.
The new routes via seaplanes will help in increasing connectivity and tourism. For regions like Andaman & Nicobar, which are geographically disconnected, seaplanes operations is the need of the hour for the people residing there. Introducing seaplanes will not only be economical in comparison with any other mode of transport but is going to be a boon for local community with enhanced connectivity.
AAI will be responsible for giving technical support for construction of the infrastructure for water aerodromes at all the sites. On completion, the State Government would operate the water aerodromes. AAI as an implementing agency receives the proposals submitted by airline operators and awards the routes for RCS airports/ water aerodromes. The administrative actions for the functioning of aerodromes will be taken within the ambit of AAI.
Understanding the nature of development, AAI has taken the responsibility to conduct Obstacle Limited Survey and coordinating Bathymetry survey ( a study of underwater depth of lake or ocean floors) with Inland Waterways Authority of India and National Hydrographical office. AAI is also proactively synchronising with the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF) on environmental aspects over the project.