by bappaditya paul
Encroachment of land at the Behala Airport has cast a shadow on chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s plans to revive the airport and start air-connectivity from there to several small towns in the state of importance to tourism and industry.
Due to the encroachments, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) has not been able to complete the construction of the boundary wall at the Behala Airport; an initiative that it undertook about seven months ago after the chief minister made her plans public.
The construction of the boundary wall was taken up in Phase-I of the revival work; the extension of the runway was to be taken up in Phase-II, immediately after this.
Having failed to complete the boundary wall due to encroachments and resistance from some locals, the AAI has now shot off a letter to the state transport secretary, seeking intervention. The letter sent on 13 April has several pages of photographic representation of the encroachments on the airport campus.
The Behala Airport is spread over an area of 200 acre. At present it is saddled with a non-functional Air Traffic Control (ATC) tower, a 915-metre runway and three hangers.
“But the campus has been lying without a boundary wall for long and taking advantage of this, encroachments of all sorts have come up there. But we have land titles in possession to prove our ownership of the entire 200-acre area,” said AAI’s Eastern Region official.
There is even an underground master drain being constructed by the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) which will pass under the proposed extended length of the runway thus jeopardising the plan. Three semi-concrete temples ~ two on the east and one on the western flank, an under-construction RCC house on the east, a village road cutting across north to south and a claim board put up by one Mondal family at the north-east corner are the other encroachments that have put paid to the AAI’s boundary wall construction.
“Some illegal high-rises that are coming up adjacent to the airport campus without obtaining a no-objection certificate (NOC), will also prove a serious concern in the airport’s revival plans. We have urged the state transport secretary to look into all these issues on an urgent basis, failing which the chief minister’s dream would never come true,” said the AAI official.
(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This piece first appeared in The Statesman on 24 April 2012.)