The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mosque shift crashlands
- Runway block puts paid to upgrade

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's government has hit an air-pocket before take-off ' after years of half-hearted attempts, it has admitted it can do nothing to shift the mosque next to the tarmac.

'We have tried to relocate the mosque, but were not able to do anything,' admitted state chief secretary Ashok Gupta to the Airports Authority of India (AAI) on Monday.

The airport authorities said they, too, had requested the managing committee of the Mathpara mosque to shift, but to no avail.

'We offered to shift the mosque at our own cost but they are not agreeing to it,' Rajendra Paul, director, AAI, Calcutta, told Metro.

'After years of deliberations, the state government has finally informed us that it cannot remove the mosque,' added Paul.

The mosque runway block comes at a time when the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport is poised for a major overhaul, new international terminal, facilities to allow aircraft to operate in bad weather, and all.

'With the mosque in the way, we cannot increase the length of the secondary runway,' pointed out Paul. 'We have to find a way around this,' added an official.

The length of the primary runway is 3,627 metres, while that of the secondary runway is 2,399 metres.

'Bigger aircraft with a heavy load cannot operate on the second runway if the length is not increased,' the AAI official explained. The landing distance available is limited, making it difficult for big aircraft to land.

Also, the secondary runway does not have Instrumental Landing System (ILS), which enables an aircraft to land even in fog, at night, or when visibility is low. The primary runway has Category I ILS and is being upgraded with Category II light facilities.

'But since the secondary runway has no such facilities, aircraft cannot be operated on it when the visibility is less than 3,000 metres,' an official explained.

According to AAI director Paul, there is no use of installing ILS on the secondary runway, since it does not have the required length.

For this, the resurfacing work and installation of Category II lights on the primary runway is being affected.

Relocation of the mosque may be a non-starter, but taxiing smoothly is the proposed new international terminal building.

A team of experts from Airport D' France, the company entrusted with architectural design, visited the airport last December.

'They will submit their design proposal soon to the government of India,' said Paul.

The three-storeyed proposed building will be built in phases over 100,000 sq m.

In the first phase, 40,000 sq m will be built, at a project cost of Rs 100 crore, with a construction period of four years.

'For construction work, too, global tenders will be floated and the best available technology will be used in the revamp,' an official said.

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