Steel city airport plans take wing

665-acre Gamharia plot better suited than Chakulia WWII airstrip

By Animesh Bisoee
  • Published 18.05.17

Hope for a domestic airport for Jamshedpur seems to have been revived with the Seraikela-Kharsawan district administration identifying 665 acres of forest land at Gamharia, barely 20km from the steel city, that looks to be more suitable than the abandoned WWII airstrip at Chakulia that was being considered.

On Monday, the district administration submitted a land status report to the state transport department, pointing out that the 650 acres of land along the four-lane Kandra-Ranchi state highway belonged to the forest department and was free of any kind of encumbrances.

Additional deputy commissioner (ADC) of Seraikela-Kharsawan Kunj Bihari Pandey, who prepared the status report on the directive of deputy commissioner Ramesh Gholap, said, "The 665 acre identified at Gamharia block comprises mouza from Manoharpur, Raghunathpur, Ratanpur, Raipur, Bansikocha and Giddibera. Since the land belongs to the forest department, it only needs to be notified and transferred to the state civil aviation department for developing an airport," he told The Telegraph, adding that the civil aviation unit had only sought 400 acres, while the identified area was more than 200 acres more.

Efforts to identify land to develop an airport for Jamshedpur gained momentum after chief minister Raghubar Das had asked the administration to finalise an area in tune with the centre's policy of promoting regional air connectivity.

As of now, there is no air service from Jamshedpur's Sonari airport. Spread over 25 acres, the Sonari airport is owned by Tata Steel and is primarily used by the company to ferry senior officers who use company planes. But since the runway length is short, and not as per DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) norms, it is unable to accommodate large aircraft.

Surendra Kumar Sinha, who is the director of the state civil aviation unit under the state transport department, said he had received the land status report. "We have received status reports for both plots, Chakulia from the East Singhbhum district administration and Gamharia from the Seraikela-Kharsawan district administration. I cannot say anything further," he said.

State transport principal secretary K.K. Khandelwal, however, sounded positive about Gamharia. "Gamharia is near to Jamshedpur and the Adityapur industrial area. It is well connected by road. After going through the land status report and maps, we may visit the site and submit the report to the Union civil aviation ministry for a final nod," he said.

Sources in the state civil aviation unit agree that the Gamharia site seemed more suitable as the land belonged to the forest department and was free from human habitation. "The Gamharia site is close to Tata-Kandra and Kandra-Ranchi state highways. Rather than at Chakulia, which is 70km from the steel city, an airport at Gamharia would be better for Jamshedpur. Chakulia in Baharagora block has human habitation in spite of the presence of a 2.5km airstrip from the time of World War II," said an official.

In 2015, Tata Steel had to shelve its international airport project due to land acquisition hurdles. With a runaway of approximately 10,000 feet, and spread over 528 acre, the airport was planned to be built at a cost of Rs 400 crore also at Gamharia block but at least 8km away from the place identified in the latest status report.

In 2012, the district administration had submitted a technical feasibility report to then chief minister Arjun Munda. His government okayed it the same year. But the project could not take off because of local protests over land acquisition even though 90 per cent of the required land had forest clearance.

Gamharia or Chakulia, where should the airport come up? Tell