‘Defence land can be given only on the basis of exchange of “equal value of land” suitable to the Local Military Authority’
Plans on the next phase of expansion of the Tiruchirapalli International Airport could soon move forward as Defence Minister A.K. Antony has indicated that his Ministry would consider a request for transfer of about 168.48 acres of its land, if the State government provided alternative land of equal value in exchange.
Mr.Antony has conveyed the information in a letter to P. Kumar, MP, Tiruchi, who had raised the matter in the Lok Sabha. According to Mr. Kumar, the Minister (in his letter) has said that as per existing policy, Defence land can be given only on the basis of exchange of “equal value of land” suitable to the Local Military Authority.
Citing the exchange of land between the Ministry and the State for the expansion of the Chennai Airport, Mr. Antony pointed out that “equal value of land” was provided to the Ministry at Manamai village by the State government . “Therefore, the concerned authorities under this Ministry will process the case for transfer in terms of policy for transfer of Defence land,” he concluded.
The Airports Authority of India (AAI) had sought (from the State) about 510 acres of land for the expansion of the airport. The area proposed to be acquired includes sites held by the Defence Ministry, a couple of State departments and private lands.
Uncertainty prevailed over the airport expansion project in the last few years on account of the stalemate over the land acquisition. A proposal on the acquisition of the required land has been submitted to the State government but could not be firmed up as the Defence land was contiguous.
Previously, reports had emerged that the Defence Ministry was reluctant to part with the land and that the Station Officer, Tiruchi, had rejected the proposal citing future requirements for construction of permanent buildings. Subsequently, Mr. Kumar had taken up the matter with Mr. Antony and sought his intervention.
Mr.Kumar told The Hindu that he has already conveyed the information to the district administration for follow-up action.
When contacted, District Collector Jayashree Muralidharan said although she was yet to receive an official communication in this regard from the Defence Ministry the district administration has already identified alternative land to be given in exchange. The process would move forward once the site was approved by the Ministry authorities after an inspection.
Airport Director S. Dharmaraj said AAI, Defence and State government officials have already conducted a joint inspection last month to demarcate the Defence land that is sought to be transferred.
The AAI in a master plan, drawn up taking into account future requirements of the airport, had envisaged extension of the runway from 8,000 to 10,000 feet initially and further to 12,000 feet. Extension of the runway was deemed essential for the airport to enable operation of wide bodied aircrafts.
Proposals for the construction of an additional terminal building to double the passenger handling capacity from the current 400 and a new control tower form part of the next phase of the expansion plan of the airport, which was recently declared as an international airport.
IN AIR POCKET
About 510 acres of land required for expansion
Uncertainty due to stalemate over acquisition
Administration yet to receive official word
Expansion must for operating wide-bodied aircraft