(Eds: Changing a word in headline & intro) Shillong, Feb 15 (PTI) The Meghalaya High Court has asked the Airports Authority of India and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation to file affidavits and indicate the feasibility of expansion of the Shillong Airport to accommodate long-haul flights and larger aircraft to reduce time for visitors to reach the hill state.
“Both the Airports Authority of India (AAI) and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) were required to file affidavits indicating the feasibility of expanding the Umroi airport to accommodate long-haul flights including Boeing and like aircraft,” A division bench headed by Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee said in an order for a hearing conducted on Monday.
The Bench also pulled the authorities concerned saying that there was no feasibility report on expansion the airport to handle long-haul flights and larger aircraft during the hearing despite the state authorities incurring a huge amount on cutting obstructing hills at a distance away from the airport.
“It is submitted on behalf of the state that substantial expenses have been incurred for expanding the flat land beyond the runway on either side by cutting down the hills. However, it is possible that further hills have to be cut before a safe runway can be put in place to be able to handle Boeing and bigger aircraft,” the order noted.
The High Court Bench also noted that Meghalaya has rich prospects in developing tourism.
“If a plan of sustained development of the tourism industry is chalked out, upon monitoring and regulating the critical parameters, the local economy may get the necessary fillip, particularly since there is no big industry in the state. The boost of tourism in the state will also result in substantial benefit to the national economy,” it added.
As tourism is likely to gain momentum here, the court said that the two authorities to necessarily indicate the feasibility of expansion of the Umroi airport to accommodate larger aircraft than ATRs and the cost benefit analysis in respect thereof.
At present, only short-haul ATR aircraft land at Umroi airport while bigger aircraft cannot land because of a short existing runway. Regular flights operating from Kolkata, Imphal, Agartala, Dibrugarh, Lengpui, Dimapur, Silchar and Guwahati lands at the airport here.
Since Guwahati is the nearest big airport, the court said if a visitor directly lands at Umroi, the travel time would be reduced to only about 40 minutes instead of three hours.
“In the long run, this may be greatly beneficial apart from reducing the time required to reach shillong,” the order said. PTI JOP RG RG RG
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