Air connectivity across Odisha is set to get a boost with the state government proposing upgradation of the existing 11 airstrips in different districts. The plan includes installation of communication and surveillance apparatus, increasing the length of runways and construction of boundary walls, sources said.
The airstrips are located at Keonjhar, Dhenkanal, Sambalpur, Jeypore (Koraput district), Khariar (Nuapada district), Bargarh, Phulbani, Rairangpur (Jharsuguda district), Ganjam, Balangir, Bhawanipatna and Malkangiri.
Official sources said except the airstrip at Jeypore, which will be converted into a full-fledged airport over 310 acre, the rest will be revamped and modernized. The state government had earlier proposed the Airports Authority of India (AAI) to develop the Jharsuguda airstrip into a full-fledged airport.
The government has directed chief engineer (roads) and superintending engineers of Cuttack, Sambalpur, Jeypore and Berhampur circles to prepare plans accordingly. “Following the decision on May 24, we have written to the engineers concerned to prepare the plan, design and cost estimation for the upgradation work,” said joint secretary Premananda Khuntia.
“Many of the existing airstrips don’t have boundary walls making them vulnerable to animal menace. The length of the runways would be increased to facilitate landing of big aircrafts,” said an official. The runway in most districts is less than 5000 ft. “Big aircrafts require at least 900 ft runway for landing and take-off. Besides, the airstrips should have navigation aids and control towers,” said director of Biju Patnaik Airport Sharad Kumar.
Odisha has 17 airstrips and 16 helipads. In August, 2012, the government had announced to develop five greenfield airports at Rayagada, Paradip, Dhamra, Angul and Kalinganagar in an effort to boost intra-state and inter-state civil aviation.
“Upgradation of airstrip in Odisha will help deliver emergency services faster. It was a dire need for a state like Odisha, where many tribal areas are still not well connected,” former diplomat Abasar Beuria said.