Guwahati, Wednesday, August 10, 2011
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Dibrugarh airport expansion under cloud
Ron Duarah
 DIBRUGARH, Aug 9 – A move by the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) threatens to scuttle expansion plans for the Dibrugarh Airport at Mohanbari here. The ITBP, which is scouting for a plot of land to set up their battalion here, has of late set its sights on land belonging to Manohari tea estate. The problem is, land belonging to this same estate is also required by the Airports Authority of India (AAI), for further development of the Dibrugarh airport.

Assam has several operational airports, but a majority of these belong to the Indian Air Force, and civil airlines use civilian enclaves in these airports for commercial operations in Silchar, Tezpur and Jorhat.

The AAI owns three airports, the ones at Guwahati, Dibrugarh and North Lakhimpur. While the LGBI Airport at Guwahati has been made an international airport, a similar plan is also on the anvil for the Dibrugarh Airport, and hence the need for additional land here.

In December 2009, the AAI authority here wrote to the Dibrugarh district administration, requesting acquisition of 277 acres (approximately 835 bighas) to facilitate expansion of the civil airport at Mohanbari. As a result of this official communication, the district administration here is finalising procedures to hand over the required land to the AAI. To begin with, 55 bighas of land of Manohari tea estate will be handed over. Later this month, there is another proposal to hand over an additional 35 bighas, while the rest of the required land would be acquired and handed over in due course of time.

However, with the ITBP also requesting land from Manohari tea estate, the matter of Dibrugarh Airport expansion seems to be heading on a collision course. In November last year, the IGP (Administration) of ITBP, KB Singh wrote to the deputy commissioner here, seeking the civil administration’s suggestions on which of their two proposed sites would be better suited for their proposed new battalion headquarter here. These two sites, as mentioned by the top ITBP officer, were land belonging to Kabir Tea Estate and Ghooronia Tea Estate. The district administration here then opined that the Kabir tea estate land would be best suited for the ITBP, as Ghooronia land is being kept reserved for the gas cracker project’s future requirements. It is a mystery how the ITBP’s local officials in Assam then decided to opt for Manohari tea estate. It has come to the knowledge of this newspaper that a few local businessmen, including one controversial tax consultant are trying to mislead the ITBP by offering the paramilitary agency land of Manohari tea estate.

Students’ groups including the ATTSA have already apprised the district administration here that they have strong objections to the ITBP seeking Manohari tea estate land, and have also warned of an agitation if the ITBP has its way at Manohari tea estate. They are of the opinion that the ITBP should be happy with Kabir tea estate land, as this would also not affect the tea work force there.

Informed persons here also feel that the ITBP and other similar agencies should not look at land that is to be required for civil infrastructure development in the district. This would also avoid unnecessary civil turmoil, they said they feel.

With Dibrugarh growing commercially and strategically, a planned land use road map also needs to be drawn up immediately by the district administration for the city and its peripheral areas, said several senior citizens here today.

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