RELOCATION OF BAGDOGRA AIRPORT TO PURNEA IN BIHAR
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Siliguri, 29 July: Jaws will surely drop and this piece of news will surely come as a bolt from the blue for a large section of the people, especially in North Bengal and Sikkim.
The Airports Authority of India (AAI) has talked about shifting of the crucial Bagdogra Airport to Purnea in Bihar, thanks to the alleged lackadaisical attitude of the state government and the delay in the airport’s expansion plans.
The process of land acquisition for the installation of the night landing facility at the airport has hit snag, and as per the present status, one single family is still objecting to part with the land for setting up the Instrumental Landing System (ILS). The airport requires 12.91 acres of land for the purpose.
Two other proposed projects are also in a limbo. The airport separately requires 120 acres of land for the extension of the terminal and for building residential quarters. The airport had purchased eight acres of plot at Gonsainpur under the Matigara block, but the authorities are yet to take possession of the said land.
“On these issues, a meeting was held in Delhi in the middle of this month. The AAI had called the meeting with the Indian Air Force (IAF). The subject of the meeting was relocating Bagdogra airport to Purnea,” a well-placed source said.
“The AAI may approach the IAF to take its existing land of around 30 acres at Bagdogra in lieu of the IAF land in Purnea (160 km away from Bagdogra),” the source added.
“There has been tremendous growth of the Bagdogra airport in the recent past in terms of passengers. There was 10.35 lakh passengers in the last financial year (2014-15). An increase of 42% as compared to the previous fiscal year. Around 26 flights operate daily at the airport. But at the same time, it is also very important that the airport is expanded to facilitate more people. The delay in the land acquisition process is affecting the development of the airport,” the source said.
“Take an example, the terminal building was meant for around 400 people, but around 2000 people are currently served there. It is important that the terminal building area is expanded. Around three-and-a-half years ago, the airport authorities had paid the state government to buy the land for the staff quarters, but the administration has failed to vacate the land,” the source said.
For flights to land in poor weather/visibility conditions, the airport needs the ILS and a component of the system is the Approach Lighting System (ALS).
Darjeeling district magistrate Anurag Srivastava, meanwhile, said the process of land acquisition for setting up the night landing facility is underway.
The meeting of the AAI can be seen as a move to apply pressure on the state government to expedite the land acquisition process.
“A section of Northeast India depends on the Bagdogra airport. A maximum number of tourists visit Darjeeling and Sikkim because of the accessibility of the airport. The airport is a crucial part of the economy and the tourism industry of the region. Not only from the economic point of view, but the sentiments of the people of the region will be hurt (if the airport is shifted). It is most unlikely that the airport will be shifted, but it is also the responsibility of the state government to expedite the land acquisition process,” an official said. Following the Indo-China war in 1962, the Union civil aviation ministry handed over the airport to the IAF. The IAF had given its nod to the airport authority to run flights till 10 pm on 1 July 2014.
Asked about the issue, Bagdogra airport director Rakesh Sahay said he would not want to make any comment.
“This is beyond my purview. It is a policy matter. I have no comments on this,” he said. (SNS)