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Rediff.com  » Business » Meghalaya's Rs 12.52-cr Baljek Airport yet to take off 6 years after inauguration

Meghalaya's Rs 12.52-cr Baljek Airport yet to take off 6 years after inauguration

Last updated on: July 26, 2014 11:08 IST

Meghalaya's Rs 12.52-cr Baljek Airport yet to take off 6 years after inauguration

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K Anurag in Meghalaya

Almost six years after inauguration, an airport near Tura in Garo hills areas of Meghalaya has been lying unused.

Much hope was raised for the people of land-locked Garo hills when then President Pratibha Patil inaugurated the state-owned Baljek Airport near Tura along the Guwahati-Tura highway on October 22, 2008.

But the small aircraft used by the President that day to attend the inauguration was the first and the last aircraft to land and take off from the airstrip of Baljek Airport.

The airport has remained non-functional since then and set to remain so in near future because of some ‘technical reasons’.

Tura airport was built at a cost of Rs 12.52 crore (Rs 125.2 million).

The project was conceived in 1983 by the Meghalaya government but sanctioned by the Centre 12 years later.

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Image: Baljek Airport terminal.
Photographs: K Anurag/Rediff.com

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Meghalaya's Rs 12.52-cr Baljek Airport yet to take off 6 years after inauguration

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At present, the terminal and the runway are lying unattended while some of the facilities are being used to house a Central Reserve Police Force battalion engaged in counter-insurgency operation in the Garo hills.

The reason given for non-functioning of the airport is that none of the scheduled airlines in the country is in possession of Dornier-228 aircraft, the only type that the airport can handle.

“Tura airport is suitable for operation of 20-seater aircraft and no scheduled airline owns Dornienr-228 aircraft,” Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation G M Siddeshara said in reply to a question of Tura Member of Parliament Purno A Sangma in Lok Sabha.

“Therefore, there is no operation at Tura airport,” he added.

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Image: A portion of the runway.
Photographs: K Anurag/Rediff.com

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Meghalaya's Rs 12.52-cr Baljek Airport yet to take off 6 years after inauguration

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The minister informed the Lok Sabha that Meghalaya government had proposed to hand over the airport to the Airports Authority of India and a draft memorandum of understanding for this purpose had been forwarded to the state.

The AAI is developing the airport for operation of ATR 42/ATR 72 types of aircraft.

The 3,300-foot runway will be extended by another 1,200 feet.

A total of 58 acres of additional land was acquired at a cost of Rs 2.58 crore (Rs 25.8 million) to aid the expansion of the airport.

But the work has not been completed.

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Image: Area earmarked for car parking.
Photographs: K Anurag/Rediff.com

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Meghalaya's Rs 12.52-cr Baljek Airport yet to take off 6 years after inauguration

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This is the second airport in Meghalaya after Umroi in Ri Bhoi district.

Dedicating Baljek to the people of Meghalaya, then President Pratibha Patil had said the airport would help connect the Garo Hills with the rest of the country and would encourage tourism.

She had said that the opening of the airport would help people from other parts of the country visit the beautiful Garo Hills.

Now, that seems a distant dream.


Image: Wild shrubs engulf the unused airport area.
Photographs: K Anurag/Rediff.com

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