2G Airports in 2S smart cities of PM Modi’s vision

Civil air transportation growth is inevitable with the growing population and urbanisation. The consequential effects are increasing noise, gaseous emissions and numerous other factors that negatively impact the global environment. Thus the future of aviation lies in ‘Greener Operations’ rather than ‘Grandeurs Operations’.

2G Airports in 2S smart cities of PM Modi’s vision

2G Airports in 2S smart cities of PM Modi’s vision

Global urbanisation trends are well known and well recognised by all the countries. India is no exception. Focus on future cities is evident when Prime Minister Modi pushed for holistic development of cities and localised plans for urbanisation.

“Small Towns, local planning is the key to urban India”. This vision of PM Modi is indicative of creating satellite towns and developing cities into economic centres. Airports, over a period of time, have established themselves as economic magnets. So, efficient, effective and affordable airport infrastructure is a must for each modern satellite town. Mid-sized airports in tier-two and tier-three cities in India are another key to making the mission of 220 airports by 2030 a reality.

In parallel, the government is set to sanction over 90 airports as carbon-neutral by 2024 – Scindia. There is a huge potential of economic activities at smaller towns which will further get enhanced when they are connected with the world.


It is popularly said that a three kilometer of road does not take you anywhere while a three kilometer connects you with the world. As an example the PM’s statement, “Most of the startups now are being set up in tier two and tier three cities” is a re-emphasising this.

Further, civil air transportation growth is inevitable with the growing population and the urbanisation and as such the consequential effects are increasing.

These could be in the form of noise, gaseous emissions and numerous other factors that negatively impact the global environment.  Thus the future of aviation lies in ‘Greener Operations’ rather than ‘Grandeurs Operations.

Greenfield Projects can be highly coveted by engineers as no time, efforts and costs are needed for the demolition of existing infrastructure constructed in the already developed areas for the development of airports in the particular place. Modern Greenfield airports have been built/under construction/or planned in UAE, Beijing, Istanbul, Sydney, India, and Nepal.

Over the next two decades, the number of airports is expected to increase from 133 to 500; of these, 367 are slated to be Greenfield airports.

The growing awareness of our responsibilities to preserve our planet and its environment for future generations is evident from the increased media attention about the concerns just mentioned above.

The passionate views of our young generation include love for the environment and they being good corporate citizens endeavor to ‘go greener’; and even in the times of global economic uncertainty it makes good sense for them to believe that industry can do  good and do well at the same time if we fly cleaner and efficient aircraft.

Not only airport business, airport planning and airport development are becoming ever more complex due to ‘go green’ concepts and technology.

The level of innovation of today cannot match the pioneering work predating heavier-than-air flight and the subsequent early years of aviation; yet today we are operating and serving in an industry that underpins the global economy, invests enormous sums in product development to interconnect the globe and the global business and needs to be applauded.

Further, efforts to understand and manage the environmental impact of aviation is essential for the continued health and well-being of all, i.e. the industry, society, environment, planet; both at local as well as global level.

We all believe airports and airlines together make the world more connected, more accessible and more prosperous. It is in this context I place on record that no Greenfield Airport shall be looked upon as a mere engineering project rather it shall be taken up as an eco-system project.

Thus let me term it as “‘2-G Airports’, i.e. a Green Airport at a Greenfield”.  I feel proud that my readers accept it. Coming to the second ‘S’ for Smart Cities is for Safety, Thus Safety and Security features of a Smart City  shall be the hallmark of its existence.

The debate on ‘does the aviation in general pollute the environment to a detrimental extent’ is consistently among the thinkers.  The efforts to know, more importantly, can the effect be measured, can the effect be predicted, what is the certainty of predictions, and what can be done about it?  The debate is on among the policy makers, politicians, and the press/media.

All these polarise the views that make it difficult to separate the scientific and popular viewpoints. Vested opinions through provocative statements make it milkier.

Here, I am reminded of a management jargon, ‘If you can’t convince, then confuse’. Is there a right or wrong opinion?  It is this that makes it a challenging task for building a Greenfield Airport. It is a challenge to address the interaction between experts from civil aviation and the environmental experts.

The advice of key players in the field, those who directly contribute to the development of a new Greenfield airport including engineers, designers, airport operators, maintainers, governments, regulators, international agencies and all those who have the capability to influence that development in any manner that includes policy makers, decision makers, planners, politicians and the last, but not the least Journalists.  To the extent possible, development of Greenfield airport shall be looked upon from factually correct and objective driven concepts.

People at the apex level shall shun the personal opinion and the speculations.  Stimulated discussions and debates shall be encouraged, but decisions shall come out from those discussions and debates. I am sure, over a period of time, more exchanges and more collaborations will take place to advance new concepts and practices that shall convince the opinion makers towards the ‘pleasure of flight’ in an increasingly more sustainable manner.
Further ‘Green Airport at Greenfield’ shall aim:

1. It shall address decarbonisation under the ‘Net Zero Policy’ and shall make aviation net-zero. The industry has commitment to attain it by 2050 through utilising operational efficiencies, improved and novel aircraft technology, high quality-offsetting and Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF).  As per one statement by Airbus, the world’s first zero-emission commercial aircraft is aimed to be out by 2035, though smaller regional flights may be possible by 2026.

2. Clean Aviation through leveraging disruptive technologies towards greener power and greener aircraft. EU’s public-private partnership to evolve innovations in the aviation sector increased efficiency and reduced environmental impact at aircraft level by 30 to 50 percent.

3. Airport transformation through integration of aviation sustainable energy sources in the air transport system is essential to harness it fully.

4. Accelerating global urban mobility of people shall evolve new UAMs (Urban Air Mobility) vehicles.  Future air mobility shall include space at airports for Electric Vertical Take-off, Landing Vehiclese VTOLs and Vertiports, etc.

This shall require an integrated and scalable ecosystem for each airport that shall navigate the requirements of the new system to marry with the old to generate synergy rather than conflicts and drags; in terms of infrastructure, regulations, technologies, new airspace design, as per the type of aircraft.  Efficient handling of changes and disruptions in the aviation system will make a good green airport of the future be it Greenfield or brownfield.

5. Greenfield airports will boost the aviation sector. The construction of an airport is one of the most important facilitators for the growth of an industrial region and is predicted to have a strong economic multiplier effect.

A Greenfield airport is the one that is built from scratch on a new (undeveloped) site. It means a project that does not have any constraints imposed by prior work. Such airports are constructed to support the projected requirements of the traffic of the existing airport.

6. The Indian Civil Aviation market is witnessing a significant transformation with the passenger traffic expected to double by 2030. India is expected to overtake China and the United States as the world’s third-largest air passenger market in the next 10 years, by 2030, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Over the last three years, the following six Greenfield airports have become operational: Pakyong Airport in Sikkim (2018), Kannur Airport in Kerala (2018), Kalaburagi Airport in Karnataka (2019), Kurnool Airport in Andhra Pradesh (2021), Sindhudurg Airport in Maharashtra (2021) and Kushinagar Airport in Uttar Pradesh (2021).

In addition, during the last 3 years, construction of Greenfield airports at Navi Mumbai in Maharashtra, Mopa in Goa, Hirasar in Rajkot, Jewar (Noida) in Uttar Pradesh, and Hollongi in Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh have been undertaken.

7.  21 Greenfield Airports will be set up across the country. The Indian government has formulated a Greenfield Airports Policy, 2008 which provides guidelines, procedure and conditions for establishment of new Greenfield Airports in the country. Under the policy, the government has so far accorded ‘in-principle’ approval for setting up of 21 Greenfield airports across the country in Mopa in Goa, Navi Mumbai, Shirdi and Sindhudurg in Maharashtra, Kalaburagi, Bijapur, Hassan and Shimoga in Karnataka, Datia (Gwalior) in Madhya Pradesh, Kushinagar and Noida (Jewar) in Uttar Pradesh, Karaikal in Puducherry, Dholera and Hirasar in Gujarat, Dagadarthi, Bhogapuram and Oravakal in Andhra Pradesh, Pakyong in Sikkim, Durgapur in West Bengal, Kannur in Kerala and Hollongi (Itanagar) in Arunachal Pradesh.

The Indian government has been attempting to increase the number of airports to accommodate the growing aviation traffic. India had 153 operating airports as of 2020. By FY2040, the country plans to increase the number of operating airports to 190-200. There is a renewed push for Greenfield airports in the country with a focus on catering to a large passenger traffic and linking hitherto untapped areas.

8. Greenfield can be an example of economic push. The Jevar International Airport is the latest example where pre-global investors’ meet attracted the FDI of Rs 50,000 crore, from across 24 countries. Post-global investors’ meet aims to get FDI of 10 lakh crore. I guess it’s ‘One followed by 13 zeros. It is also estimated that the airport will fetch about 38,000 direct jobs.

(The author is a former general manager, the Airports Authority of India and has been conferred the Architect of the Year Award (Greenfield Airport) 2022. He has over four decades of experience in civil aviation.)