Saturday, May 22, 2010

air crash due to criminal negligence of authorities?

22 May 2010      


From Our Delhi Bureau

NEW DELHI: Contrary to Air India pilots being blamed for the tragic Boeing aircraft crash at Mangalore early Saturday morning that killed over 150, a Bangalore-based NGO asserted that it was no accident but result of a criminal negligence of authorities in not adhering to applicable norms and standard in building the second runway at the airport.

The Environment Support Group (ESG) that had twice moved PILs (public interest litigations) before the Karnataka High Court in 1997 and 2002, along with Vimana Nildana Vistharana Virodhi Samithi (Local Communities Alliance Against Airport Expansion), Bajpe, accused the authorities of ignoring even the Supreme Court ruling on their appeal in February 2003 to strictly follow the norms in building the runway.

It blamed the officials at the highest level in the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), Airports Authority of India (AAI), Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Karnataka Government for building the second runway despite it not meeting standards for emergencies during landings and takeoffs when air crashes are most likely to happen.

The NGO pointed out that this is a second major mishap at the Mangalore airport in over a decade, the first plane luckily not tipping over into the valley. On board in that fortunate flight was Union Law Minister M Veerappa Moily.

To ensure such tragedies do not recur, the NGO demanded a judicial inquiry into the "causative factors" of the crash, so as to probe the absolute lack of conformation with basic runway design standards and emergency approach measures. It said such a probe is also necessary because India today is frenetically building airports all over, and for all sorts of flaky reasons, neglecting safety measures.

The second runway construction began in 2004 and it was commissioned in May 2006. The expansion of the airport was carried out to enable flight movements of wide-bodied aircraft such as Airbus A-320.

The NGO claims it repeatedly pleaded with the authorities even before the construction began that the proposal violates the standards prescribed for runway design as laid down by DGCA, National Building Code of India and Ministry of Civil Aviation. Further, considering that the airport was proposed for international flights, a case was also made that the second runway could not conform with International Civil Aviation Authority standards due to terrain limitations.

"No one in authority cared to listen to our fervent pleas. This even when we demonstrated through a variety of representations that the site chosen for expansion at Bajpe was surrounded by deep valleys on three sides of the runway and did not provide for emergency landing areas as required," the NGO said in a statement circulated on Internet. Its PILs in the Karnataka High Court also highlighted that the airport also did not meet the basic requirement to have emergency approach roads with a kilometre on all sides.

"It is truly sad that because of the failure of key decision makers at the highest levels so many innocent lives have been lost. It is quite possible that many lives were lost as emergency rescue teams could not access the crash site due to the difficult terrain (a valley) for over a hour after the incident, even though it was proximal to the site," the NGO said.

It said the authorities could have chosen better alternate site but they "proceeded obstinately to expand the airport yielding to pressures from business, real estate and hotel lobbies who benefited immensely from an airport at Bajpe and politicians keen to make the expansion a part of their legacy overlooked all concerns." Authorities could have easily explored alternate sites within Bajpe itself or even in Padubidri, between Mangalore and Udupi, it said.

The NGO recalled that it had approached Airport Authority of India chairman Dr Naseem Zaidi in March 2004, pleading to comply with the Supreme Court directions as the second runway on the site would jeopardise passenger safety, put local communities to risk....," but it got no response.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

many thanks for the post - even a layman like me could see through the wisdom of allowing a tree top runway. my doubts got stronger when i watched NDTV repeatedly blaming the pilot. Your posts seals the argument. regards,Gopal