Amidst staunch opposition by the Shiv Sena and local resident groups against setting up a heliport at Mahalaxmi Racecourse, the ambitious project has now got entangled in technical complexities, putting further doubts on its future.
The Airport Authority of India (AAI), which has been assigned the task of designing the project, has written to the state government, stating that the runway's height needs to be increased to 5 meters in order to prevent it from flooding during monsoon. It is expected to cost over Rs 46 crore.
"However, increase in runway height will block the view of the horse racing which will defeat the purpose of the racecourse," said a senior AAI official having direct knowledge of the development.
Uncomfortable at the exorbitant cost involved in increasing the height, the government asked for a reduced height of 3.5 meters, whose cost turned out to be slightly less at over Rs 38 crore. Also, the permissible height limit allowed for buildings around the heliport will get reduced. Correspondingly, the building permission around the heliport will also get reduced by one floor due to it, the officials said.
AAI officials insist that if the state government does not takes the decision at the earliest as the project could slow down again due to upcoming model code of conduct on occasion of assembly election in September-October.
"Also, till the time state government does not decide on the runway height increase, the developers around the airport will keep on getting higher height permission, which will turn into a hindrance for the project" said another AAI official, aware about the development of the project.
P Chinson, general manager (aerodromes), of AAI refused to comment on the development.
As the lease for the racecourse got over recently, Shiv Sena wants the government not to renew it and instead develop the 225-acre plot to a grand public park at the place.