Monday, January 31, 2022

West Bengal to seek AAI nod for relaxation of 40km-distance rule for second airport

Kolkata: The state is set to approach Airports Authority of India seeking a relaxation of the maximum distance criteria of 40km between a new airport and the city so it can propose a site in Kalyani, around 58km from the city and around 43km from NSCBI airport.

Sources in the state said Bhangar, the site it was exploring for acquisition of 7,000acres, may not be feasible as it comprises wetlands and multi-crop agricultural land. While acquiring wetlands may disturb the ecological balance of the region, farmland acquisition is a prickly issue that can spark an agitation.

The Trinamool government had come to power in 2011 riding on the uprising in Singur and Nandigram against farmland acquisition. Since coming to power, the government has also stressed on a policy for zero-forcible acquisition of farmlands. In a recent communication, state chief secretary H K Dwivedi had directed South 24 Parganas DM P Ulganathan to earmark a plot of around 3,000hectares in Bhangar for setting up the city’s second airport to reduce congestion at Dum Dum.

However, an assessment over the past week has revealed that the earmarked zone at Bhogali–1 gram panchayat in Bhangar has 30-odd cemeteries, 80-odd large fish bheris, more than 150 small fish bheris, and more than 6,000 residents at Nangla and Palpur villages along with several thousand acres of farmland. Another thing that has been worrying the state is the history of Bhangar, where a project of the Power Grid Corporation had faced serious land acquisition-related hurdles. Anti-airport construction sentiments and demonstrations had started in the area when preliminary talks were on, which has prompted the state to look for other alternatives.

“The zone identified in Bhangar has too many bheris and farmland that can hamper the ecological balance and also give rise to major scarcity in food supply as it supplies a large chunk of the city’s vegetables and fish,” said a source.

31/01/22 Tamaghna Banerjee/Times of India

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