The aircraft that brought Rahul Gandhi to Balurghat on Wednesday. Picture by Mithun Roy
Malda, Sept. 16: A fresh attempt began today to construct a new airport for this town so that large aircraft can take off and land, carrying both passengers and precious cargo like silk and mango — the two most valuable items that Malda produces.
A team of officials from the Airports Authority of India (AAI) led by regional director Gautam Mukherjee inspected land for the airport at Naldubi in Old Malda. The area is adjacent to NH34 and is 10km from here.
District magistrate Pramal Kumar Samanta told the AAI officials that acquiring 500 to 600 acres of land would not be a problem.
“The present airport has many problems and even if we get rid of them, only aircraft not bigger than 42-seaters can operate from there. That is why we are looking for an alternative site. The district administration has shown us two sites, one in Lakshmipur in Englishbazar, and Naldi in Old Malda. We have proposed to acquire 500 to 600 acres of land,” Mukherjee said.
The current airport on 155 acres is encircled by highrises and mobile phone towers as well as towers carrying high tension cables, and brick kiln chimneys.
Mukherjee said Malda being a district that had tremendous export potential for its mango and silk, the air service opportunity should be exploited.
“We need to have a cargo complex and an airport that can accommodate large aircraft like Boeing and Airbus and that is why a new site is required. The AAI is laying stress on that,” Mukherjee said. He added that the mango varieties of Langra and Himsagar were very popular in many countries and air service would help export them more.
South Malda Congress MP Abu Hashem Khan Chowdhury said before the new airport is constructed, the AAI should make the present airport functional.
District magistrate Samanta said he had asked the AAI to send a proposal to the district administration.
“As soon as we receive the proposal, land acquisition will be done. The state government and the ministry of civil aviation will also have to ink an agreement,” he said.