Arunachal Chief Minister Kalikho Pul on Friday took up the issue of poor air connectivity in Arunachal Pradesh with Union civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju and discussed on several crucial proposals to improve air connectivity for the state.
“Since our State does not have a wide rail network or waterways, roads become the only link for communication. But the difficult terrain over which these roads run, make travel very difficult in the State, and there are places in the State not connected by roads that makes communication a major constraint for development,” said the Chief Minister.
The CM stressed that the air connectivity offers itself as the only viable alternative and the most obvious candidate for serious planning and investment. He was accompanied by Chief Secretary Shakuntala Gamlin and Resident Commissioner Geetanjali Gupta.
Impressing upon the urgency to establish a civilian airport at Itanagar, the Chief Minister said it is a great irony that we are today perhaps the only state in the entire country, which does not have a functional civilian airport with any commercial airline operations.
He said the matter of a civilian airport for state capital has been hanging for long and we now need to quickly move into implementation at a location, which is logistically most convenient and cost effective. In absence of air connectivity the development of the state has been getting hampered, the CM pointed.
The Union Minister agreed to depute a team of officer from the centre for site visit to start work for civilian airport in the state capital.
In the interim, the Chief Minister urged that Air India/Alliance Air should commence regular flights to Lakhimpur and Tezpur thrice a week. The state government through NEC support would enter into a Viability Gap Funding agreement with the airlines. The state government would prescribe a subsidized fare and the gap for operational cost would be met through NEC support. Earlier, the Secretary DoNER during his visit to Itanagar had agreed for such an arrangement.
The Chief Minister also mentioned that the eight Advance Landing Ground (ALG) at Ziro, Aalo, Mechukha, Pasighat, Walong, Vijaynagar and Tezu being commissioned at various locations in Arunachal Pradesh must be allowed for dual use to enable effective connectivity, which would also give a boost to tourism and economic development.
He requested that an arrangement for concurrent use in peacetime of the airstrips being developed by the Defence Ministry and Airports Authority of India, be worked out since these airstrips are also crucial for the needs of administration and tourism.
Also to increase air connectivity, the Chief Minister informed that the state government has plan to connect all district headquarters and important tourism destinations through helicopter services.
This will not only facilitate travel of passengers and tourists, but also be of great use in case of evacuation of patients, for use by the NDRF and SDRF during disasters and also by law enforcement agencies, he said.
The Chief Minister also sought the support of the Ministry to run a helicopter fleet with appropriate subsidies and funding.