Saturday, July 7, 2012

Proposal to shift airport to Nalanda not mine: Nitish Kumar

Chief minister Nitish Kumar stoutly denied that he was behind the reported move to shift Jaya Prakash Narayan International Airport from Patna to Nalanda. He said an airport in Nalanda has been proposed in the light of the terms of reference of the upcoming Nalanda International University, which would require air connectivity.

Talking to media on Monday on the sidelines of 'Janata ke darbar mein mukhya mantri', the CM said he came to know about it during the last week meeting of the monitoring committee for Nalanda University, which has been constituted by the Prime Minister. The chairman of Airports Authority of India (AAI), who was also present at the meeting, said an airport could be made there. The committee is headed by Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia. "When they take the final decision, we will start land acquisition process between Nalanda and Pawapuri," Nitish said.

About the expansion of the Patna airport, the CM recalled that in 2007 he had met the then civil aviation minister Praful Patel and a map for expansion plan of Jaya Prakash Narayan International Airport towards Phulwarisharif had been handed over to him during his meeting with the officials of civil aviation ministry and the AAI. He had also asked Patna DM to inspect the place and explore land to be given to the airport. But the idea was suddenly shelved by a joint secretary-level official of the government of India, who visited the site and said it was not feasible, the CM said.

He further recalled that a few years back the issue of shifting the airport was raised by the AAI. Its team came for survey of an alternative place. They visited Bihta but were told that land acquisition was not possible there as large chunks of land of farmers had already been acquired for various projects. The team found Nalanda-Pawapuri an ideal place, Nitish added.

About the cutting of the trees at Sanjay Gandhi Biological Park, the CM said the pruning of trees was a normal practice but felling hundreds of tress was not permissible. "This is the only green belt here and it cannot be finished," he added.

He was also critical of the policy of civil aviation ministry and the AAI and said they just forgot the renewal plan of the Patna airport. The state government officials had to rush to Delhi pleading for renewal of the airport. "The running of an airport is not the responsibility of state government but of the AAI," the CM said.

To a query that once the Patna airport is shifted to Nalanda, it would cause great difficulty to the local passengers, Nitish said, "Many four-lane roads are being constructed to connect Patna with Nalanda and one can reach Nalanda by road within 50 minutes. All the airports in the country are located far away from the cities."

However, he said the civil aviation ministry and the AAI would make the final decision to build an airport at Nalanda. The state government would extend its support and assistance to the project, he added.

About the airport at Gaya, the CM said more land had been given for its expansion and now aircrafts of all sizes could land at the Gaya airport. The civil aviation ministry should consider starting operation of commercial flights from there, he said.
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