Nalanda on airport radar, Bihta off

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  • Published 4.02.11

Patna, Feb. 3: The search for a site to host the new airport is going round in circles.

The Bihar government has written a letter to the chairman of the Airports Authority of India (AAI) expressing willingness to provide 1,200 acres of land in Silao circle of Nalanda district, around 80km southeast of Patna, for setting up the new airport.

Nalanda figured in the list of prospective sites for the new airport, the other two being Bihta and Punpun.

An AAI team, which visited Bihar in October 2009 for inspection of the three sites, had rejected Punpun, on the outskirts of the state capital, as it was a low-lying area.

The team had given first preference to Bihta air base, which is around 35km away from Patna. Nalanda remained the other contender.

The government has, however, expressed inability to provide land at Bihta and has now sent a proposal on Nalanda.

“We would have to re-locate thousands of families in case we accepted AAI’s proposal for setting up the new airport at Bihta. Moreover, it being a base of Indian Air Force, the AAI would have to take permission from the ministry of defence even if we give the go-ahead,” said Afzal Amanullah, principal secretary, cabinet coordination.

Amanullah, whose department looks after state civil aviation, said keeping the ground realities in mind, the government had zeroed in on Nalanda as people would not have to be displaced for setting up the airport. A good chunk of government land is already available there and only part of the 1,200 acres required would have to be acquired.

The officer parried fears on the distance of about 80km passengers would have to travel between Patna and Nalanda, saying a four-lane national highway was coming up on the route.

“Moreover many good institutions, including the Nalanda International University, police training college and CRPF training camp, are coming up there,” he added.

Aviation sources said the government would have to try hard to convince the AAI to agree to the Nalanda proposal. A similar proposal sent by the Uttar Pradesh government for setting up an airport at Jhewar on the Uttar Pradesh-Delhi border is pending with the AAI for several years.

The existing airport at Patna has many drawbacks and has already been categorised as one of the most dangerous in the country because of the obstacles along the approach funnel and its short runway.