Sat, 21 Feb 2004

Kuala Namo to replace Polonia Airport

Apriadi Gunawan, The Jakarta Post, Medan North Sumatra

After seven years of delay caused by the financial crisis that hit Indonesia in 1997, construction on the Kuala Nemu Airport in Deli Serdang regency here will begin this year.

Construction of the new airport, which will replace Polonia Airport in Medan, will cost Rp 5 trillion (US$600 million), with the money coming from the state budget.

North Sumatra Governor T. Rizal Nurdin said on Friday the project had been agreed upon by the Directorate General of Air Communications and the House of Representatives.

Rizal said the new airport, some 20 kilometers south of Medan, was necessary because the runway of Polonia Airport was often inundated by water from nearby Babura and Deli rivers, disrupting flights.

The two rivers often overflow during the rainy season.

Another consideration is the ever increasing number of flights to and from Polonia.

According to research by the Asian Development Bank, the number of flights from year to year at Polonia Airport has always been more than predicted.

For example, 25,000 flights were predicted in 2002, but that number reached 30,000. It was predicted there would be 27,000 flights in 2003, but there were 36,000 flights that year.

Because of the increasing number of planes taking off and landing at Polonia, a larger airport is needed.

Rizal estimated construction of the new airport would be completed by 2007.

However, the planed construction has met opposition from non- governmental organizations, which claim the Kuala Nemu area is prone to flooding.

The governor has asked residents near the proposed construction site to support the project, saying it will bring with it economic benefits to the area.