North East

AAI to take over Baljek airport in Garo Hills

TURA, September 3: In a ground breaking decision taken to bring Garo Hills into the air map of the country and boost tourism in the region, the Conrad Sangma led Meghalaya government has decided to hand over to the Airports Authority of India the region’s lone airport at Baljek in Jengjal, 33 kms from Tura.
Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma led a high level delegation of the Airports Authority of India (AAI) headed by Sanjeev Jindal, Regional Executive Director of AAI, to inspect the Baljek Airport on Tuesday morning
Accompanied by Meghalaya Home Minister James Pangsang K Sangma and chief adviser to the chief minister and North Tura MLA Thomas A Sangma and several high level state officials, the chief minister had a long discussion with the AAI team at the airport and also inspected the runway.
“The objective of this visit is to operationalize the Baljek Airport and our discussions with the Airport Authority of India was very positive. We have come to a conclusion that there is a process we will follow for which we will be handing over Baljek to the AAI,” announced Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma to media persons at Baljek after conclusion of talks and inspection of the airport.
The chief minister said that initially basic services such as the current Helicopter service would be made operational from Baljek itself. Currently, the Pawan Hans helicopter service between Guwahati-Tura-Shillong, operational three times a week, has to use the BSF helipad at Dobasipara, Tura for want of a permanent landing strip.
“In the long run extension of the Baljek runway will pave the way for landing of aircraft,” informed the chief minister.
The limited runway at Baljek had been one of the main reasons the airport has not been able to be utilised for Dornier and ATR aircraft. The rst and last time a dornier aircraft landed was during the inauguration of the Baljek airport by President of India Pratibha Patel in the year 2008.
During the joint inspection with the AAI delegation, Meghalaya Home Minister James Pangsang K Sangma assured that the state government would do all that is necessary to procure additional land for expansion of the runway.
‘Boost for tourism and cargo’; says Jindal
The top AAI ocial who attended the Baljek inspection, Regional Executive Director Sanjeev Jindal has said that once the airport is made operational it will give a major boost to tourism in Garo Hills.
“This is my rst visit to Garo Hills and I found there is immense potential for agriculture products and tourism. If this airport is given to us to operate we will see how best to develop it. Initially we will start with the helicopter service and gradually look into bringing in Dornier and ATR type of aircraft,” says Jindal optimistically.
He said that once it is operational under an ATR type of aircraft there will be immense potential for tourism as well as cargo.
“Tourists and tourism related issues like hotels will benet from the air connectivity and small farmers having good agricultural produce will get an opportunity to get their commodity airlifted through cargo not only to India but the rest of the world,” revealed Jindal.  (Courtesy: TST)