The Indian Air Force (IAF) has agreed to provide land to the Pune airport authorities to facilitate the shifting of the cargo hold area to a larger space, three years after the proposal was first floated.
“The defence ministry has given us an oral confirmation; we are waiting for permission in writing,” Pune MP Girish Bapat, chairman of the Pune Airport Advisory Committee, told TOI. “I will be in Delhi later this month for the Monsoon session of the parliament and will get the written confirmation by the end of the month. Once this happens, the cargo hold area can be shifted by early next month,” Bapat added.
Pune airport has emerged as an important centre as stocks of Covishield vaccine, manufactured by Serum Institute of India (SII), are sent out from here. Larger consignments of the vaccine, however, are transported by road to the Mumbai airport and flown from there. The new space would help increase the volumes transported.
“We are looking at very large consignments of vaccine being transported from Pune in the near future,” a source at the Pune airport said.
Bapat further said the defence ministry made it clear that no permanent construction would be allowed on the plot. “We will come up with temporary sheds so that cargo is protected from weather conditions,” he said.
The shifting of the cargo facility had been pending for over three years. Last October, Pune airport authorities had said they were losing business worth Rs 2.5 crore per day. “If we get the plot opposite IAFs barrack store office yard, the handling capacity will increase to 500 tonnes each day. About 150 tonnes of cargo is handled by the existing facility,” Pune airport director Kuldeep Singh said.
However, a sense of urgency set in with the transport of vaccines starting in January, airport officials said.
“Also, the existing area where cargo is processed has to be closed to facilitate construction of the new terminal building. We were expecting things to move by January, but it didn’t work out,” the official said.