Work at the greenfield international airport at Mopa in Goa is going on at a fast pace with the Air Traffic Control (ATC) appearing ready from the outside; workers diligently getting the Passenger Terminal Building (PTB) primed for the inauguration; and scores of other workers giving shape to other infrastructure, as was evident during a visit on Tuesday.
The PTB looks ready from the outside from afar, but workers seem to be rushing against time as checks go on to see whether the carousels are working; whether the light terminals at the check-in counters are working, as electricians blend with air conditioner technicians, who are laying foam on pipes that will cool the area.
With fifty-two days left for the year to end, the PTB is swarming with workers – some trying to bring light to the building through electric fittings; some dressing the pipes which will air condition the place; some testing the escalators; some giving finishing touches to interiors in certain areas; others assembling prefabricated material.
Work goes on ceaselessly until lunchtime when they all march in groups to the four canteens to replenish their energy and begin their next shift with another goal to accomplish.
The exterior of the catering area is getting ready and so is the area earmarked to house the airport police station and CISF. The warehouse is not ready and nor are the parking areas in the vicinity of the PTB.
Mud is being levelled at the site of the parking area, and the contractor entrusted with the work is confident the place will be ready by December 15. “Have no doubts,” he confidently assures.
The police station and CISF area is being completed with prefabricated concrete rooms. And with two floors laid, here too the contractors are confident that the work is on schedule.
Trucks and heavy machinery create dust storms in areas of the airport as cranes lift and move equipment from one place to another. Everyone on site, with helmets and boots, seems synchronised with a schedule.
The four jet bridges are in place, the escalators have been fitted in the PTB and tile works are going on in certain areas. The roof of the PTB is being fitted with the help of cranes, and electrical wires are seen hanging around as electrical, air conditioning, tiling and carpentry teams try to give shape to the place.
Huge pits can be seen in certain areas and mud-vibrating machines can be seen through the vast expanse. An engineer estimated a distance of nine kilometres from the PTB to one section of the wall from where vehicles could be seen whizzing up and down, creating a cloud of dust.
In one corner of the airport, not too far from the PTB, are the temporary camps built for workers, who are mostly from Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. Metal sheds house the workers who share common toilets and bathrooms. “Food is provided to all through the four canteens made available,” explained a site engineer.
The security at the place is handled by a firm called AXA, and the construction work is handled by GMR with parts outsourced.
“Covid had huge repercussions on our timeline. There was a time during the pandemic when we had to create a centre to keep the sick away from the rest. We lost a lot of time during the pandemic,” explained an engineer.
“Acres of land have to be levelled, dressed with drainage and vegetation before the whole airport is really complete. It is not financially possible to wait for the whole airport to be ready. We start with what we can and we gradually keep expanding without hampering the functioning of the airport,” a senior officer involved in the construction of the airport told GT Digital on the condition of anonymity.
“The airport is to be connected with a special high-rise road that will take time to build. The road that you have come through will be the service road. Passengers coming in and going out will not have to pass through the villages below,” disclosed the officer.
“We do not foresee any further delays. Our idea is to get the airport operational as soon as possible. We do not want to lose out on the traffic of the present tourism season. Every flight missed is a big financial loss to us,” explained the officer, as he kept checking the status of the work in the afternoon.
By then, the air is dusty. A few water tankers sprinkle water in places as workers huddle in makeshift metal rooms that serve as canteens. It is too hot to relax after a meal and so most try to look for shade. There are few places like this around, and workers make do with what they get because the work must go on before the dust settles, and one day soon flying planes will shade the toils of the past.