Karjol announces plans to upgrade Sambra Airport to international standards

This effectively means that the plans for an international airport in Kittur are shelved, says senior officer

Published - August 18, 2022 07:00 pm IST - Belagavi

A view of the airport in Sambra near Belagavi

A view of the airport in Sambra near Belagavi | Photo Credit: FILE PHOTO

With district in-charge Minister Govind Karjol announcing plans to upgrade the Belagavi Airport at Sambra, it seems that the State government has dropped proposals to build an international airport at Kittur.

Earlier, Industries Minister Murugesh Nirani had spoken of proposals to build the international airport in Kittur. He had said that Kittur was chosen for its geographical proximity to North Karnataka cities such as Belagavi, Hubballi-Dharwad and Vijayapura, apart from its historical significance.

In an investors meet in Bengaluru, Mr. Nirani had said that the new airport will need non-agricultural land of over 2,000 acres and that the government will start acquiring land. It will be a private-public-partnership project and will cost ₹2,000 crore, he had said. He had also said that he has spoken to some potential investors who have shown keen interest in the proposals.

However, Mr. Karjol on Tuesday made a startling revelation at a meeting with officers that the State government has decided to upgrade the Sambra Airport to international standards and that it will need land acquisition of around 100 acres. He asked the district administration officers to prepare a proposal for this. This will include identifying land surrounding the airport and not allowing conversion or sale of that particular stretch of land. The Sambra Airport lies in the vicinity of villages such as Sambra and Honnihal.

“This effectively means that the plans for an international airport in Kittur are shelved,’’ said a senior district administration officer. “The aerial distance between Sambra and Kittur is 40 km and it seems improbable that there will be two international airports within such a short distance, especially when there is no demand for such a facility from this region,’’ the officer said.

If this plan is executed, it will be the third expansion or redevelopment of an airport. Built between the two World Wars, the Sambra Airport served as an airbase for the Royal British Air Force. It was used extensively during the Goa Liberation. After Independence, the Indian Air Force started the Airmen Training School in Sambra. The State government invested in the airport and opened it up for civilian flights. In 2017, the State government acquired more land and provided additional infrastructure to upgrade the airport.

Farmers, however, are not very enthusiastic about the proposal. “Most farmers who have lost land have not received proper compensation in the two earlier rounds of acquisition. We have no reason to believe that this time it will be different,” said Krishik Samaj president Sidagouda Modagi.

He also said that the faulty alignment of roads around the airport has cut off direct routes to surrounding villages. Farmers associations will protest against any further efforts at land acquisition, he added.

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