Fresh land protest in airport final lap

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  • Published 20.12.14

Dec. 19: The Andal airport project has run into rough weather 18 days before the fifth deadline for flagging off the first flight.

The trigger behind the fresh trouble for the project is allegations by a section of villagers that the promoter, Bengal Aerotropolis Projects Limited (BAPL), had taken more land than that earmarked to shift power transmission towers near the runway and not compensated them for that.

"Shifting the high-tension transmission towers near the runway is yet to be completed. The work was going on in full swing after landlosers in two villages withdrew their years-long agitation. But two days ago, work had to be stopped again in Tamla, another village where the towers are being installed and overhead cables fixed," a source said.

The aerotropolis project was supposed to be operationalised in December 2012, but it has missed four deadlines because of a slew of reasons, including acquiring land to relocate the towers and laying the 4.1km approach road to the airport. Because of the protest by the landlosers, who are demanding more compensation, the road is yet to be built.

Tazid Ali, 44, who is leading the latest round of protests in Andal's Tamla, said the villagers whose land was acquired to relocate the towers would not allow BAPL to resume work unless they were paid for the extra land.

"We repeatedly told BAPL to pay us for the extra land taken to install the towers. The company had told us 2 cottahs would be needed to install each of the 11 towers in our village. But now we see that more than 22 cottahs have been utilised in total. Our pleas have fallen on deaf ears," said Ali.

Earlier, villagers in nearby Arati and Ichapur had refused to allow BAPL to install the power towers on their land, demanding more compensation and jobs, but the matter was settled in October following the intervention of agriculture minister Malay Ghatak.

After the withdrawal of the agitation, Ghatak had announced that two short-distance flights would take off from the airport on January 7.

"We are trying hard to make the airport operational by January 7 and have applied to the directorate-general of civil aviation (DGCA) for approval," a BAPL official said.

A DGCA official said: "We are yet to issue the clearance to BAPL. They have to submit a compliance report after removing the towers from the vicinity of the runway."

Sources said another DGCA clearance was also awaited. "The Airports Authority of India has set up the communication navigation and surveillance (CNS) equipment for the functioning of the air traffic control at the airport. But a calibration is required before the final clearance is issued," a source said.

According to him, an aircraft will land at Andal airport and take off to find out whether the CNS system is working. The approval could be expected between a few weeks and a month if the landing and take-off test is satisfactory.