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Talks give wing to airport road

Ranchi, Nov. 16: The land logjam over constructing the approach road to the new integrated Birsa Munda Airport terminal building may end soon, with three stakeholders — state government, Union ministry of defence and Airports Authority of India (AAI) — deciding today to resolve the issue by the end of the month.

Unlike the ill-fated 227-acre Nagri campuses, the AAI requires only six acres.

These six acres are currently under the possession of the defence ministry, to build the stretch linking the city to the new-age terminal that will boast domestic flights and also hopes to go international.

Also, unlike in Nagri where resident villagers are stalling the knowledge hub project, here, people in surrounding hamlets such as Hinoo, Hundru, Hetu, Hastand and Hara Tanr have now agreed amicably to the road project in the hope of an economic revival.

Only, officials of Danapur (Bihar) cantonment, who have their base in the Jharkhand capital, had protested that they could not part with army land without the permission of the Union ministry higher-ups.

Participants of today’s deliberations included a high-level delegation of Union ministry of defence additional secretary A.K. Bishnoi, AAI chairman V.P. Agrawal and member (operations) S. Raheja, who assembled at chief secretary S.K. Choudhary’s office at Project Building.

Everyone agreed unanimously to honour the Jharkhand High Court deadline of November 30 for reaching a solution.

“We can positively hope for a headway to the construction of the approach road after today’s meeting,” G.V.G. Raju, AAI general manager (projects), told The Telegraph.

As Raju remembers too well, the extended deadline to complete the Rs 139-crore project was June, 2012, while the original one was June 2010.

The foundation stone for the airport’s modernisation and expansion programme was laid even earlier, on February 20, 2009, by then civil aviation minister Praful Patel.

AAI authorities, who have been fearing budget derailment thanks to the many delays, are clutching at this meeting as a lifesaver.

Still, the frowns of worry have not disappeared altogether as no one is handing out an inauguration date for the new terminal or even saying when road construction — in stone, mortar and concrete terms —would actually begin.

Yet, it is hoped that once ready, the integrated terminal building will bury all worries and bad press.

The Rs 138-crore modernisation project includes the centrally air-conditioned terminal with an online baggage inspection facility to handle 500 domestic and 200 international passengers, in case the airport becomes international in future.

At present, the existing terminal operates only seven service flights to four domestic destinations — Calcutta, Delhi, Patna and Mumbai.

The new facility includes a parking zone for 600 cars, against the existing capacity of 100. The terminal will have a natural lighting system, two aero-bridges, escalators and mostly imported equipment.