Meghalaya Urban InfraCon discusses NE connectivity issues


Shillong: February 17, 2012

KEY EXCERPTS of the DISCUSSION

AIRPORT in MEGHALAYA (AIR CONNECTIVITY and OPERATIONS): The Shillong Airport at Umroi is expected to have the Instrument Landing System (ILS) within the next six months. “We are targeting to have the ILS in the Shillong Airport within the coming six months. All the necessary equipments are there with the Airport Authority of India (AAI). We have to complete the necessary formalities before finally installing the ILS at the airport,” AAI Regional Executive Director RK Singla informed during the Round Table Discussion on Meghalaya Urban Infrastructure organised by the Indian Chamber of Commerce here on Wednesday. While maintaining that the AAI is committed to making the airport fully operational the airport, he said that the expansion project of the runway is in the pipeline and that would pave the way for the landing of bigger aircrafts. Singhal said that the new runway will be lengthened to 7,500 feet from the present 6,000 feet and will be realigned with the existing runway which will be equipped with Instrument Landing System to assist aircrafts to land in low visibility or bad weather. While informing that the State Government is negotiating with the defence authorities for acquisition of the 32 acres of land for expansion of the runway, he also informed that the AAI would require another 18 acres of land for construction of the quarters of its staff and also for CISF personnel who would be providing security for the airport.

Earlier, Transport Minister Abu Taher Mondal had informed that to facilitate landing of bigger aircraft, a total area of 224.16 acres of land have been acquired for the airport’s expansion. “We have handed over 192 acres of land to the Airport Authority of India to develop the airport and the Government has sought Rs.26 crore from the DoNER Ministry for the airport’s expansion,” Mondal had informed. Meanwhile, Singla informed that the State Government has waived off tax on aviation fuel to encourage airlines to operate between Shillong airport and more destinations within the region and the country. “At present the airport does not have refuelling facility but the State Government has decided to exempt aviation fuel tax to attract airlines in the near future to land at Shillong airport,” AAI Regional Executive Director said.

He further said that the exemption was also aimed at attracting domestic and international tourists to Meghalaya.“Once we have good air connectivity, then there will be a constant flow of tourists to Meghalaya, ” Singla added. Meanwhile, Singla informed that the AAI has recently completed the detailed survey of the Tura Baljek Airport.

“We have also submitted the DPR of the airport to the State Government,” the AAI Regional Executive Director said. He informed that the Government will soon get an ATR which can carry 35 passengers from Tura to Shillong on a daily basis. According to Singhal, the Government wants the ATR aircraft to land in the Tura Baljek Airport.

GUWAHATI SHILLONG FOURLANE ROAD: While the State Government is in haste about diverting empty trucks through the Shillong bypass, senior officials of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) have expressed serious apprehensions that this will hinder the timely completion of the project. The Government is under pressure to ease congestion in Shillong city and along the Shillong-Guwahati highway and the only way out is to divert some upcoming traffic through the Shillong bypass. But the General Manager, Guwahati Regional Office NHAI, Raj Chakravarty has literally pleaded with Urban Affairs Minister Ampareen Lyngdoh to brief the Government to “have patience for another two years so that the people of Meghalaya will have a top quality road.”

Chakravarty was speaking at the Round Table Discussion on Meghalaya Urban Infrastructure organised by the Indian Chamber of Commerce here on Wednesday. It may be mentioned that the NHAI had been maintaining that that the target for completion of the project is 2014. Chakravarty informed that the time frame for completing the Rs 226 crore Shillong bypass project is 2014 on account of several handicaps related to land acquisition etc., which have delayed the completion of the project. Chakravarty suggested that the State Government should also take up with the Union Ministry of Road Transport for construction of an expressway between Shillong and Guwahati.

Deputy Chief Minister Bindo M Lanong has said that the prime reason for delay in the project implementation in Meghalaya is due to ‘human failure’. “I do not subscribe to the hollow arguments that the delay in project implementation is due to an act of nature. I can say from experience that 90 percent of the delay in the implementation of any project is due to human failure,” Lanong said during the Round Table Discussion on Meghalaya Urban Infrastructure organised by the Indian Chamber of Commerce here on Wednesday.
HYDEL PROJECT: Pointing to the Leshka Hydel project, which he said was interminably delayed, Lanong said that it is the failure of the implementing agency and not nature which has stalled the project. “The Leshka project which has caused much displeasure to many people was supposed to have been completed six years ago. Sadly the project has been commissioned only recently,” the Deputy Chief Minister said, adding that the delay has led to cost and time overrun. “The total project cost has increased by more than three times its original estimate. It is sad to see so much money being wasted without any accountability and that project cost going up by leaps and bounds,” he said. Stressing on the need to adapt a ‘right approach’ while implementing projects, Lanong said the right approach would reduce any roadblocks in the timely completion of every project. “Those who implement projects in Meghalaya must understand the topography, environment and above all the character of the people and the cultural nuances,” Lanong observed even while he maintained that getting land is not a major problem.

“We should know that people want development. We only need to know how to negotiate with people and convince them to give land for development,” he said.

BYRNIHAT SHILLONG SURFACE CONNECTIVITY (RAILWAY OPERATIONS in MEGHALAYA): Preferring to err on the side of caution, Deputy Chief Minister Bindo M Lanong said the proposed railway project connecting Shillong to Byrnihat should be kept on hold since there was opposition to the project from several quarters, especially the Khasi Students’ Union (KSU). “I don’t think we should go ahead and implement this project since there is strong opposition from the people especially the KSU,” Lanong said while speaking during the Round Table Discussion on Meghalaya Urban Infrastructure organised by the Indian Chamber of Commerce here on Wednesday.
Lanong said there is a need for a detailed study to see whether the opposition of the KSU is justified. “We can think of implementing the project once the people are in favour of it,” the Deputy CM said. Lanong however stated that people of Jaintia Hills are ready for a railhead since they wish to transport their mineral resources via a cheaper and faster mode. The Sutnga-Lanka Railway project is perhaps designed to serve that purpose.

He also cautioned that railway projects should not traverse over forest or agricultural land, adding that the railway project between Dudhnoi and Mendipathar is appropriate since these are not major forest areas.“Another important factor is that people themselves are in favour for the railway project from Dudhnoi to Mendipathar,” Lanong said. Earlier, North East Frontier Railway Chief Engineer Madan Sen informed that due to opposition to the railway project between Byrnihat and Shillong they have not been able to conduct the final survey for the proposed project.

Although the deadline for completion of the project is 2013, Sen said that since they are yet to complete the survey, they would have to set a fresh deadline to complete the project within 2017 provided they are able to start right away. Sen said the Department has not encountered any problems in the Tetelia-Byrnihat railway project and it is expected to be completed within 2014, North East Frontier Railway Project informed that the Dudhnoi-Mendipathar Railway Project is expected to be completed within 2013.

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