Gangtok, February 4: Finally some good news, as almost after ten months, the Pakyong Greenfield Airport will reopen for flight operations from March this year. The device was suspended in June last year (2019) due to low visibility situations.
Speaking with Sikkim Chronicle, the Secretary of Tourism and Civil Aviation Department, TT Bhutia, informed that the operation is likely to resume from March this year.
“We have received information from the Airport Authority of India (AAI) that the work of installing navigation equipment, metrological instruments, and visibility markers have been initiated at the airport site”.
The letter issued by the Airport Director reads that the AAI has installed four visibility markers in the site to assist the Indian Metrological Department (Pakyong) so that the flight operations do not get hampered. Furthermore, visibility markers are being installed beyond 5km area in coordination with the Director, IMD, Gangtok.
As per the airport sources, MET surface observatory has already been installed at the site, which is satisfactory. In addition, Current Weather Instrument System (CWIS) is under installation in the airport by the Metrological Department”.
The AAI has also written a letter to Spice Jet Limited, asking to restart the flight operation at the earliest, it is informed. Spice Jet is the lone airline licensed to operate on the Kolkata – Pakyong sector.
The Tourism Secretary also noticed that the government has already approved Rs 50 crore as a rehabilitation package to the landowners and the affected families, after which permission to carry out the restoration was given by the said families in writing.
Benup Dhakal, the petitioner at the High Court of Sikkim said, “so far, 37 families whose land and houses were damaged have been compensated. The government has assured that the compensation of others would be released in phase-wise. Out of 50 crores, the government has already released 20 crores”.
The East District Collectorate, Raj Yadav, informed that the AAI has written a letter to DC seeking more land for the landfill site. “We are working on it”, the DC he said.
The Chief Minister, PS Golay, had met with the Civil Aviation Minister, Hardeep Singh Puri in Delhi last year, requesting the Ministry’s intervention on the matter.
The tour operators in Gangtok have expressed happiness over the news of the resumption of the flight service.
“We are happy that the problem with the airport has been sorted out. The suspension of the service did affect tourism, though not on that large scale. Tourism is now a competition and easy air connectivity is a need to cut short the travel time”, said Binod Rai, a tour operator.
It may be recalled that the airport at Pakyong was inaugurated by the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi on September 2018. It is located at an altitude of 4,600 feet and is considered to be one of the most beautiful airports in the country.