The runway of Dhanbad airport that is on the development radar. Picture by Gautam Dey
Along with Deoghar and Bokaro, Dhanbad is also taxiing towards air connectivity.
The district administration has finished conducting the survey of the present airport for developing it into an advanced facility and forwarded two reports to the state headquarters and the civil aviation department. The aim is to bring the coal town in the country’s air map by this year.
The reports, apart from suggesting steps that ought to be taken to bring the Dhanbad airstrip on a par with the best-maintained airports of the country, also pegged the estimated expenses at Rs 10 crore. According to sources, the administration has demanded Rs 2 crore in the initial phase to begin work.
However, Dhanbad deputy commissioner Sunil Burnwal made it clear that only small 15-20 seater aircraft would be able to land at the upgraded airport. “For commercial, bigger planes, we need about 20 to 25 acres and more money. Although that amount of land is available, the Airports Authority of India has to be involved in the project then. But a report on this had also been sent to the authorities about six months ago,” he added.
At present, the authorities will have to acquire about eight acres. According to Burnwal, acquiring land would not be a problem as vacant acres adjacent to the airport belonged to the government. Only some small chunks of land have to be acquired.
With Dhanbad’s growing importance in myriad fields like education, research, industrial and mining activities, not to forget the proposed new fertiliser and steel plant by SAIL at Sindri, a modern airport and better air connectivity is the need of the hour. No wonder, chief minister Arjun Munda recently announced that Dhanbad, Bokaro and Dumka would get airports of national standard. Now with the revamp proposal being forwarded, the ball is now in the government’s court.
Till 1987, small carrier Vayudoot operated from Dhanbad airport, flying in passengers from Patna, Calcutta and Ranchi. But the service stopped just after a year. Since then, the airport has been out of operation. Even during elections, only choppers ferrying politicians touch down here while bigger aeroplanes prefer the Bokaro tarmac from where the leaders drive down to Dhanbad.
Amit Kumar, the only employee posted at the airport, informed that in 2008, a waiting hall for passengers was added to the airport. Former chief minister and JMM supremo Shibu Soren even inaugurated the facility on October 5, the same year. “But more amenities, including canteens, better toilets, airstrips to handle big aircraft and night-landing facilities, are required,” he said.
Highly placed sources said the basic defects lay with the airstrip, which is only 3,700-feet long and 300-feet wide. Further, the 4,000-feet long boundary wall, the height of which differs from four feet to seven feet at places, must be uniformly increased to eight feet to keep trespassers at bay. This apart, hangars, lighting facilities, deep boring and shades for fire brigades have to be added and adequate number of security personnel posted. The administration’s reports have mentioned these points.
“Though the airport is situated at the far end of Dhanbad city, running parallel to the Grand Trunk Road, it must be ensured that no high-rises come up within a radius of 5sqkm,” the source added.
Secretary of the state civil aviation ministry secretary V.K. Singh said he was yet to go through the Dhanbad district administration’s proposal. “But this is for certain that the airport will be upgraded. Funds will not be a problem,” he assured.