Shimla: The Himachal government has sought a speedy central government clearance for the proposed Rs 700 crore international airport in Balh valley, near Sundernagar, so as to be get better air connectivity that could accommodate landing of larger aircrafts.
Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal has asked the civil aviation minister to expedite the clearance of the Sundernagar green field airport project. In a letter to the union minister for civil aviation Dhumal has pointed out that despite techno economic feasibility studies having been carried at the identified site several times by Airport Authority of India experts, the reports submitted were still awaiting government clearance.
To derive benefits the project needed to be put on fast track as the state was losing out in attracting larger numbers of high paying foreign tourists because of there being no landing facilities that can accommodate larger airplanes, he said.
He said that proposed green field airport was estimated to cost about Rs 700 crore and would help in promoting businesses as well boost quality tourism. Balh valley happens to be in the middle of the state and a existing good road connectivity would help visitors to access Kullu – Manali, Kangra valley and Shimla hills evenly.
For transport the hill state was dependent upon only roads as rail and air connectivity was grossly deficient, he said.
The three functional airports at Jubbar Hatti near Shimla, Bhuntar in Kullu-Manali, and Gaggal in Kangra valley were not able to fully meet the needs of the state as they only enabled landing and take off facilities for smaller planes. The state on several occasions has sought upgradation of these airports, he added.
An international airport at Sundernagar would take off some load from the congested Delhi Airport. For further connectivity, the state has already created a network of helipads at all the places of tourist interest.
Stressing upon being a special category state, Dhumal has sought being treated at par with other north eastern states that have been provided air links.