IAF to vacate Leh airbase for civilian airport

IAF officials said that they are ready to take over the alternate provided site if the state government finalises the deal.

Srinagar: The Indian Air Force (IAF) has agreed to vacate the airbase at Leh in the arid Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir to facilitate expansion of the civilian airport by the State government.

Kashmir’s Divisional Commissioner, Dr. Asgar Hassan Samoon, said that he was informed about it by the IAF officers at a meeting held in Srinagar on Friday to review the expansion plan. The meeting was attended also by senior officials of Airport Authority of India Limited (AAI) and civil administration of the State.

Samoon said that he was informed that the State government has identified land in lieu of the existing IAF airbase in Leh that will pave way for expansion of the airport for civilian use. The IAF authorities have already vetted the proposal.

In neighbouring Kargil, the Army has agreed to vacate a large tract of land presently under its control in exchange for an alternate site. The land thus vacated would be used for the expansion of the town, he said.

The IAF officials, who attended the meeting, said the alternate site offered by the State government in Leh has been examined by experts and they are ready to take over if the state government finalises the deal, an official handout issued here said.

It added that the Divisional Commissioner was also informed that the modalities are being worked out to shift the existing airbase in Leh to AAI that will develop/expand it for civilian purposes.

Samoon said the paperwork to finalise the dealings should be taken up on priority so that it is transferred to the civil government by the end of February. The official said the administration will transfer the airbases to the AAI for development.

He further said that the transfer agreements should be taken up on priority to fully exploit the huge tourism potential of Leh and Kargil which in turn would generate much needed employment opportunities for local youth.

Meanwhile, Samoon asked the AAI to ensure proper sanitation at the Srinagar airport so that it doesn't become a breeding ground for dogs and birds, which will pose threat to the safety of air passengers, besides local population. AAI was also asked to explore the modalities for starting night operations at the Srinagar airport.

The IAF officials attending the meeting informed him that they have already given in writing that they have no issues if the airport hosts flights during night.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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