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AAI to develop Jeypore airstrip

Bhubaneswar, Dec. 27: The Airports Authority of India (AAI) has made plans to develop the Jeypore airstrip in Koraput with an aim to improve air connectivity in Odisha.

“An team from New Delhi will carry out a feasibility study on the Jeypore air link during January 15-17. The team will include experts from the air traffic control, communications and planning wings of the AAI,’’ Biju Patnaik Airport director Sharad Kumar told The Telegraph today.

If the Jeypore airstrip is upgraded to an airport, it would be third such facility after Bhubaneswar and Jharsuguda to have fully functional airports in the state.

At present, Odisha has 16 airstrips and 12 helipads. The AAI has already initiated its first phase of the proposed plan to develop Jharsuguda airport. Following a feasibility study of 33 airstrips across the country, AAI had zeroed in on 13 and is planning to develop Jharsuguda with a proposed investment plan of around Rs 90 crore.

“With the Odisha government’s initiative in early 2012, the AAI initiated steps on the Jeypore airlink and sought some clarifications. The government provided the necessary details along with the business potential of the Jeypore airstrip. Consequently, the AAI is sending its team for the ground zero feasibility study,’’ said another senior AAI official in Bhubaneswar.

On the other hand, the Odisha government has also initiated a plan to revive the existing runway of the Jeypore strip through the local division of the public works department (PWD). While the Jeypore PWD division had already floated a tender of Rs 35 lakh for the purpose, there is a master plan to spend up to Rs 6 crore for to upgrade the airstrip, which is spread over 60 acres. There is also a provision to acquire 12 more acres.

However, the AAI officials at Biju Patnaik Airport admitted that since the PWD has no experience regarding the maintenance of airstrips, especially the runway, once the feasibility report is available, AAI will take over.

Jeypore is not only a major commercial town of south Odisha, but also the capital of the erstwhile Atavikas, a feudatory of the Kalinga Empire (ancient Odisha) during third century BC. Anthropologists say Koraput district is home to 62 tribal communities belonging to Proto-Australoid ethnic stock, who speak their own languages. The region is presently found with a huge reserve of alumina and other minerals.

``With Jeypore and Jharsuguda’s development the traditional criticism over lack of proper air connectivity in western and southern pockets of the state will die down and the efforts will help the development of indistrialisation in those areas,’’ Kumar added.

``In fact, with the Ministry of Civil Aviation emphasising development of new airports with capacity to land bigger carriers like Airbuses and not smaller crafts like ATR and CRJ, we need more land and there will be a need for re-allocation and rescheduling of land acquisition for the runway requirement. We are getting good cooperation from the Odisha Government and for Jharsuguda we need to surrender some patches and likely to have additional land in exchange,’’ informed an AAI official.