Reported by Chinmaya Dehury
Bhubaneswar, Sep 15:
The Odisha government has initiated the process to develop the Rourkela airstrip to make it viable for commercial operations that would provide air connectivity to the steel city from various parts of the country as well as the state.
A meeting was held under the chairmanship of chief secretary GC Pati to discuss the issue of air connectivity to the steel city. Along with state government officials, the officials of Airports Authority of India (AAI) and Rourkela Chamber of Commerce and Industries attended the meeting.
“We have discussed various issues to start commercial operations from the airstrip. We have given some suggestions to the government. The support of government and Rourkela SteelPplant (RSP) is required for infrastructure development,” said Sarad Kumar, director of Biju Patnaik Airport.
The air-strip, which is operating under the aegis of the Steel Aauthority of India Limited (SAIL), has a runway capacity of 6,000 ft. The AAI wants it increased by another 1,500 ft for landing of commercial planes.
The government has urged the IOCL to make fuel arrangements in Rourkela for the flight operations.
Similarly, the State Government agreed to provide important services, including fire safety infrastructure and ambulance services.
Sources said over the last decade, there has been a persistent demand to reintroduce commercial flights to the city in the industrial and mining district of Sundargarh.
On the initiative of the then Rajya Sabha member Dilip Ray, a three-member team of AAI had inspected the air-strip of RSP in September, 2007. As RSP was ready to hand over the air-strip to AAI through an MoU, the team had recommended immediate resumption of ATR type aircraft operation with a slight modification of the existing facility.
“The airstrip is in good shape and the AAI can start commercial operations anytime even though they want to increase the runway. It would be commercially viable for the AAI and benefit people,” said Rourkela Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI) president Subrata Patnaik.
Besides immensely benefiting the mining rich Sundargarh district the development of airstrip would also facilitate air connectivity to the faculty and students of National Institute of Technology-Rourkela (NIT-R).
Moreover, Rourkela city alone has the enviable distinction of owning three astro-turf hockey fields.
The nearest airport to the city will be a 120-minute drive to Jharsuguda after the proposed airport there becomes a reality, or 210 minutes travel to Jharkhand capital Ranchi.