Despite attaining statehood 29 years ago, an airport for Arunachal Pradesh’s capital has remained a distant dream for residents of Itanagar. However, all that is set to change, with Union minister Jayant Sinha announcing on Monday that the foundation stone for the proposed greenfield airport at Hollongi would be laid in December.
About Rs 1,200 crore will be spent on developing the airport, which will have a better topography and a larger runway. “The proposed 2,200-metre runway at the greenfield airport can handle jet aircraft that can provide direct flights to metro cities,” Sinha said, adding that services could also be extended to international destinations.
A greenfield airport is an aviation facility that is planned, commissioned and built from scratch without destroying an existing structure. Arunachal Pradesh already has airports at Tezu and Pasighat. The first commercial flight to Arunachal Pradesh landed at Pasighat airport in East Siang district with 25 passengers on May 22 this year.
Sinha said the entire state would be linked with aviation services in the next 10 years and asserted that helicopter, seaplanes and passenger drone services would connect small and big towns. The Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region will spend about Rs 350 crore for the initial phase of work in the Hollongi airport.
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The plan to build an airport for Itanagar was conceived as early as 2007 but the differences between the Airports Authority of India and the state government resulted in the project getting delayed. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) eventually stepped in to put an end to the dispute in July 2012 and the Holongi site was finalised.
In 2007, the state government had chosen Banderdeva, 25 km from Itanagar, as the original choice for the construction of the airport. The then Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil had even laid the foundation stone of the airport on February 20.
However, demands by civil society groups for higher compensation created hurdles. Subsequently, the Airports Authority of India rejected the Banderwa-Karsingsa site and selected Hollongi by virtue of being a predominantly flat land.
Then chief secretary Shakuntala Gamlin in a note to the Union civil aviation secretary cited that the cost of land development would be lower if the airport was constructed at Hollongi. However, land acquisition cost will be comparatively higher as the proposed site is a Chakma-Hajong settlement area since 1968, the note cited.