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Jammu Kashmir

Posted at: Aug 1, 2017, 12:36 AM; last updated: Aug 1, 2017, 12:38 AM (IST)

Leh airport on expansion mode as Air Force gives 11 acres to AAI

Arteev Sharma

Tribune News Service

Jammu, July 31

Amid the clamour over exorbitant airfares to Ladakh, the strategically-important Leh airport expansion project has finally witnessed headway with the Indian Air Force (IAF) handing over 11.8 acres under its possession to the Airport Authority of India (AAI).

Under the plan, the number aircraft parking bays will go up to five from the existing two. This was a big bottleneck for the airport as it hindered the landing of additional flights.

Once the expansion project gets completed, the upgraded infrastructure will cater to around 600 peak hour passengers at a given time which is currently 250 passengers only.

The project, which has been pending for the last more than 10 years, has an estimated cost of around Rs 205 crore and it is expected to be completed by 2020. The project includes construction of new domestic terminal building for peak hour passengers, parking bays, multi-level parking and associated works.

Worried over the inordinate delay in the project, representatives of Ladakhi people, led by lone Member of Parliament from Ladakh Thupstan Chhewang, recently met AAI chairman Guruprasad Mohapatra in New Delhi and apprised him of the “urgent need” for development and the expansion of the Leh airport.

“There has been an exorbitant increase in the rates of air tickets, ranging from Rs 10,000 to Rs 25,000 (one-way). This has resulted in an adverse impact on the overall economy and related sectors, like travel, commerce, hospitality and tourism. This is due to non-availability of enough infrastructure at the Leh airport which is capable of handling 250 passengers at a given time. There are only two parking bays and if the third flight comes, it has to hover around for 20-30 minutes before landing,” they said in their request to the AAI chairman.

They said the domestic tourist number was likely to touch 7.5 lakh a year by 2022-23 as per the estimates of the AAI.

A senior officer, who declined to be named, said the project had finally picked up some pace after the IAF handed over the 11.8 acres to the AAI, which was a pre-requisite for its expansion.

“Earlier, the IAF was insisting on getting an alternative area before vacating its land identified for the project.

However, it has finally handed over the land to the AAI which is yet to get its possession from the district administration,” the officer said.

PR Beuria, Airport Director, Leh, said Engineer India Ltd had been appointed the project management consultant with the period of completion of 54 months.

“There will be a centrally air-conditioned modular terminal building, traffic engineering and external roads, CCTV or security and access system, lifts and escalators, airport system and IT system, media plan and interior element system with local architecture,” he said, adding that the work was expected to begin in September this year.

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