Eastern Mirror Desk
Dimapur, Oct. 10:If you are wondering why there has been no development in Nagaland’s lone airport in Dimapur for years unlike those in the neighbouring states, here is the reason. It has emerged that the airport has been plagued by several issues like safety and security, land acquisition, and faulty diversion of drainage water, halting developmental projects.
Director for Airport Mughavi Zhimo has divulged information to Eastern Mirror on the problems faced by the authorities, saying that most of the effort of the airport is made towards safety and security issues, which is hampering the developmental work of the airport. He also stressed on the need to provide better facility to the passengers.
Operational constraints faced by the authorities of Dimapur airport
For nearly a decade, land issue related to expansion of runway strip has been a major obstacle for the Dimapur airport authorities. The stretch of land from Aoyimti village to Hollohon village needs to be acquired for runway strip expansion but the government of Nagaland has failed to acquire it despite been asked to do so for several years.
Zhimo stated that the runway strip requires an area of 300 metres — 150 metres each on either side from the centre of the runway. He added that the airport has enough space on the southern side but the stretch of land from Aoyimti village to Hollohon village on the northern side does not meet the requirement.
He said that the state government needs to acquire the land before being given to the Airport Authority of India (AAI) for development. “We have been writing to the government of Nagaland to give us this land and still pursuing with them but the status of the land acquisition is not known to us,” he revealed.
Citing the Dibrugarh airport where the Assam government recently acquired a substantial amount of land and handed over to AAI for extension of the runway which is already in progress, he said similar action is needed for Dimapur airport too.
Land owners set compensation rate
Land acquisition for the airport has been a big issue since 2009 with the state government refusing to pay INR 450 per sq ft as demanded by the landowners.
Speaking to Eastern Mirror, village council chairman of Aoyimti T Lima Pongen said that the decision taken with regard to land acquisition is uncertain as they are still waiting for government’s response. “In August this year, we went to the home commissioner for the answer on the land acquisition but he requested us (village councils) to wait for the state legislative assembly’s decision,” said Pongen.
Pongen said that earlier this year, Development Commissioner Sentiyanger Imchen requested the village council to accept INR 300 per sq ft but they refused as they felt that a collective response was needed from the landowners for which a general meeting was conducted in March where they unanimously decided to keep the rate at INR 400 per sq ft.
He recalled a baffling incident in 2009 where one of the government officials changed the land rate to INR 450 per sq ft even after the landowners had agreed for INR 400. “This is the reason why everything went wrong,” he said, adding that the government later cancelled the acquisition saying that it was not feasible due to the presence of NH and a petrol pump in the vicinity.
“I do not want the government to consider Aoyimti as a wasteland or a jungle. It was established in 1947, so it is apparently developed with enough buildings and road, which is why we set the price at INR 400 (per sq ft). Moreover, the prices for land in the main town is higher so we have to adjust with that rate as we are going to shift there,” Pongen explained.
He said that the delayed decision by the government has created problem for the village, hampering developmental activities and that the people are losing patience. He added that 117 households will be affected if the acquisition takes place but the village council is willing to sell their land at INR 400 per sq ft.
When asked on the land acquisition rate negotiation between the government and landowners, Zhimo said: “I am also aware of some issues regarding land rate but I cannot say that the rate was high or low. I was told that government of Nagaland wants the landowners to bring down the rate. But that is up to the landowner and the state government. AAI is not involved; the price may be for INR 10 or INR 1,000 (per sq ft) like any other state in India but the land should be acquired by the state government and given to the authority.”
“Lots of meetings have been conducted and many letters has been passed but till now the outcome is still awaited. Physically, nothing has taken place. I believe the government is also trying to acquire the land. My request is that they should expedite the matter soon and should not be delayed. Whatever it maybe, price will not reduce – it escalates with time. This thing should not be kept hanging for too long because people, who own land in that area, would definitely want to construct houses and do other development activities,” he stated.
Zhimo said that the Dimapur airport has been licensed by the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). Fearing that the safety and security of the airport is at stake, he mentioned that the DGCA might soon come to a conclusion that it is safe to allow only regional air transport or ATR (smaller aircraft) operation and not Airbus 320 (large aircraft). He also fears lots of commotion from the public if such an action is taken.
Expansion of runway towards Chathe River
Besides Aoyimti and Hollohon village area, the Dimapur airport authority is also concerned about future expansion of runway towards Chathe River. Zhimo said that the runway facing national NH-29 cannot be expanded as it is densely populated.
Moreover, it was mentioned that 213 metres of runway is displaced, which means more than one fifth of a kilometre is unusable for landing except for takeoff. The landing has to be performed beyond the 213 metre mark because of obstacles, which includes trees, buildings, and NH-29 that put the aircraft at risk.
“This is why we need to keep the land available towards the Chathe River. If a wider body aircraft wants to operate in Dimapur airport, it is necessary to extend the runway. Right now, only aircraft up to Airbus 320 can operate from Dimapur airport,” he explained.
“The state government has already acquired the land at the Chathe River but has not been handed over to us,” he pointed out, adding that a lot of land encroachment is taking place and buildings coming up near Chathe River, which poses as a threat to the safety and security of airport operation.
Diversion of drainage
The director for Dimapur airport mentioned that the runway is flooded by rain waters coming from both the Sugar Mill and North East Zone Cultural Centre (NEZCC) areas.
He said that they have been requesting the government to divert the drainage water from Sugar Mill area towards Dhansiri River and that of NEZCC area towards Chathe River for years but in vain.
“If this diversion of drainage takes place, the airport environment will be better,” he said.
Security and safety point of view
According to Zhimo, providing adequate land to AAI will help aircrafts to land safely even during low visibility times, particularly in the month of December and January, which will also facilitate regular fight operation and avoid cancellation of flights. A wider space will not only help the pilots during bad weather condition but also allow the residents to build even high-rise buildings.
“The government has assured to give the required land but I cannot say when it will happen,” Zhimo added.
Despite the delay in the expansion of Dimapur airport, Zhimo said the airport authority has initiated a few developmental projects and expected to be completed by March 2019.
Ongoing developmental projects at Dimapur airport
*Strengthening of runway, apron, and construction of isolation parking bay
*Air conditioning of terminal building
*Biometric access system
*Self checking system / common use terminal system