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Airport flight
Goodbye Halwara, hello Sahnewal
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 10
The proposal to set up an international airport at Halwara has been finally dumped and a new project plan has been prepared for setting up such an airport at Sahnewal, near Ludhiana.

Punjab chief secretary Ramesh Inder Singh held a meeting in this connection here today with top officials of the airport authority of India. Executive director of the authority A. Murugesan was also present at the meeting, it is learnt. The expansion of Chandigarh airport was also discussed in detail at the meeting.

Already, an airport for the landing of small aircraft, say 40 seaters, is available at Sahnewal. However, the existing strip with a bend can be expanded for the landing of jumbo aircraft. Ramesh Inder Singh said that officials of the airport authority had agreed to work on the Sahnewal airport project. “Adequate land was available at Sahnewal for the expansion of the existing airport”, said Ramesh Inder Singh.

The previous Amarinder Singh government tried hard to set up an international airport at Halwara. Even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did his best to get the project okayed from the union cabinet. However, the project did not materialise, perhaps because of national security concerns. As there was no use chasing the Halwara project again, the state government has proposed Sahnewal as the new site for the airport. “We certainly need connectivity by air in central Punjab. The setting up of the airport near Ludhiana will help give a boost to the state’s economy,” said Ramesh Inder Singh.

As far as the expansion of Chandigarh airport is concerned, it is only possible in the Punjab area adjacent to the airport here. There is need to acquire 300 acres for the expansion. As the price of 1 acre near the airport ranges between Rs 2 crore and Rs 5 crore, the Punjab government has told the airport authority officials that it is not in a position bear the financial burden involved in the acquisition of land.

“We have told the authority to involve Chandigarh, Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh in the expansion process. A special purpose vehicle should be set up for this purpose”, said Ramesh Inder Singh. Haryana, Chandigarh and Himachal will benefit from the airport.In fact, Himachal Pradesh’s booming industrial town of Baddi is hardly a 30-minute run from Chandigarh airport.

“As these states are bound to be benefited by the expansion of Chandigarh airport, they should also be asked to bear the financial burden of the expansion”, he added.

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