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World War II airstrip under the grip of encroachers

G. Nagaraja
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They now fight for legitimacy under the banner of CPI

Victim of human greed:A notice board with a warning against land grabbing stands testimony to the fate of an airstrip built during World War II at Tadepalligudem in West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh.— Photo: A.V.G. Prasad
Victim of human greed:A notice board with a warning against land grabbing stands testimony to the fate of an airstrip built during World War II at Tadepalligudem in West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh.— Photo: A.V.G. Prasad

Encroachment poses a serious threat to an airstrip built by the British during World War II at Tadepalligudem in West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh. It was reportedly built on a sprawling 650 acres.

Despite the government’s efforts for its revival, uncertainty prevails over its existence. In 2005, then local MLA Kottu Satyanarayana demanded that a civilian airport be built by removing the encroachments. The Department of Civil Aviation reportedly conducted a survey recently to establish a flying school.

Encroachments on the airstrip grew in view of its proximity to the town and soaring land cost. A surveyor with the Revenue Department said a township came up on 130 acres with over 1,000 houses and five out of 35 municipal wards in the town were located on the encroached land.

The encroachers, living on the airstrip for over six decades, are fighting for legitimacy under the banner of the CPI. Besides, the administration has allotted 18 acres for relocation of the encroachers who were removed from canal bunds and road margins. A similar extent of land was allotted for establishing a junior college, a degree college and a polytechnic college.

A proposal is under consideration for building a godown under the State Warehousing Corporation on 19 acres. A post-graduate centre of the Andhra University was established on 18 acres and 59 acres was allotted for the construction of houses for the urban poor under Rajiv Gruha Kalpa scheme in line with the promise made by the former Chief Minister, Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy.

Mr. Satyanarayana said the economic activity in the district, particularly aqua and food-processing businesses, would receive a boost if the airstrip was used for commercial operations.

Senior journalist and local AITUC leader D. Somasundar, who is fighting for the cause of the encroachers, said the proposal for restoration was unlikely to become a reality in view of serious issues involved in relocation of the people living there for several decades. “The matter cannot be resolved easily as the government itself is a party to conversion of the airstrip for different purposes.”

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