Himachal looks to private sector for developing air – connectivity

Airport Authority of India rejects Sundernagar site

Shimla: With plans of developing Himachal’s first international airport in Sundernagar being nipped in the bud as Airport Authority of India (AAI) has found the site technically unsuitable, the government has roped in the private sector to scout for an alternate site where one could be constructed.

Arun Sharma, director tourism and civil aviation says AAI has rejected the proposal to construct an airport at Sundernagar in Mandi due to high terrain around the site.

He said that the government was taking a policy decision of involving the private sector to develop the aviation sector.

Plans to expand the Kullu airport at Bhuntar too have come as a damper as the expenditure for extending the bridge runway over Beas River is estimated at Rs 1000 crore. AAI got a study done by IIT Rorkhee, who have suggested channelization of Beas River in order to extend the existing runway, he added.

To overcome constraints being faced in achieving better air connectivity the government is exploring the possibility of involving the private sector to develop an international airport as well as extending existing runways to enable landing of larger aircrafts.

While AAI sources disclosed plans of spending about Rs 25 crore for extending the Shimla airport runway at Jubbar Hatti from 3800 to 4800 feet, Sharma said that private developers had approached the government with proposals of having a larger landing strip at Jubbar Hatti as well as for laying out a new large airfield in the state elsewhere. “We have asked them to scout for suitable land where a large airport and be constructed,” he said.

Meanwhile number of air traffic to Himachal at its 3 existing airports of Shimla, Kangra and Kullu is steadily on the rise. Sources handling air traffic disclosed that whereas there were about 30,900 incoming passengers at the 3 airports in 2008, the number increased to 47,119 in 2009. However outgoing passengers that were over 44,071 in 2008 dropped a notch to 42926 in 2009. The largest number of people travelling by air was handled by the Kullu airport, which in 2009 had 28,603 incoming passengers and 27,096 outgoing ones, the source revealed.

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