Monday, March 14, 2022

AAI affidavit casts doubts on feasibility of runway expansion at Umroi airport

Shillong: The Airports Authority of India (AAI) has filed an affidavit before the High Court of Meghalaya, expressing its lack of optimism over the feasibility of extending the runways at the Shillong Airport at Umroi or the extent to which it may be possible to extend the runways.

The court perused the affidavit while hearing a PIL and said what the AAI is hinting at is for the state to identify one or more areas for a greenfield airport project for which the AAI is conducting a cost-benefit analysis and preparing a feasibility report with the help of experts.

The division bench in its order said that the state appears to be keen that bigger aircraft are able to land either at Umroi Airport or any other place closer to Shillong rather than the Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi Airport at Guwahati.

The order said that the present airport at Umroi is about 35 km from Shillong proper, whereas the Guwahati Airport is about 120 km from Shillong. However, the cost involved, whether in expanding Umroi Airport or in setting up a new greenfield airport, will depend on the projected use, both on the basis of AAI expert’s understanding in such regard and the extent to which the state government intends to give a fillip to tourism and make Meghalaya or the area around Shillong a lucrative tourist destination.

“In fact, the idea of a bigger airport is intricately connected with the vision of the state over the next 40 to 50 years, how it intends to attract the kind of industry that may be sustainable here or develop tourism without compromising with the pristine nature that the state is endowed with. The overall picture has to be in place, including development of roads, creation of employment opportunities, setting up of educational institutions, augmentation of healthcare facilities and the like; and, the airport project can be used as central to the overall scheme of development in the state. It may well be beyond the five-year horizon of thinking that is the fashion of the day, for projects of such kind have long gestation periods and pay back after decades,” the order stated.

“Since the state appears to be keen to have an airport that would cater to the needs of the residents in the state and others intending to visit the state without having to endure the present three-hour ordeal of travelling from Guwahati Airport to Shillong, it is hoped that something concrete regarding the development of the State is planned, with a greenfield airport project or an expanded Umroi Airport as its centre being a harbinger or catalyst for the overall development of the state that would create employment opportunities and add to the wellbeing and happiness quotient of the residents here,” the order stated.

14/03/222 Shillong Times

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