SRINAGAR: The Indian Air force (IAF) Friday agreed to vacate the air base at Leh, which will be used for expansion of the civilian airport by the J&K government.
This was revealed during a meeting held by the Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Dr Asgar Hassan Samoon, with the officials of IAF, Airport Authority of India Limited (AII) and civil administration at his office here.
Dr Samoon was informed that the state government has identified land in lieu of the existing IAF air base in Leh which will pave way for expansion of the airport for civilian use, also approved by the IAF authorities.
Similarly, the district officials of Kargil informed Dr Samoon that in exchange for an alternate site, the Army has agreed to vacate a large tract of land presently under the Army’s control, which will be used for the expansion of the town.
The IAF officials, who attended the meeting, said the alternate site offered by the state government in Leh has been examined by experts and they are ready to take over if the state government finalises the deal.
The Divisional Commissioner was also informed that the modalities are being worked out to shift the existing airbase in Leh to Airport Authority of India which will develop/expand it for civilian purposes.
Dr Samoon said the paperwork to finalise the dealings should be taken up on priority so that it is transferred to the civil government by the end of February.
The Divisional Commissioner said the administration will transfer the airbases to the Airport Authority of India for development. He said that the transfer agreements should be taken up on priority to fully exploit the huge tourism potential of Leh and Kargil which in turn would generate much needed employment opportunities for local youth.
Meanwhile, the Divisional Commissioner also directed the Airport Authority of India to ensure proper sanitation at the Srinagar airport so that it doesn’t become a breeding ground for dogs and birds, which will pose threat to the safety of air passengers, besides local population.
Dr Samoon also directed the Airport Authority of India to explore the modalities for starting night operations at the Srinagar airport. The Airforce officials attending the meeting informed Dr Samoon that they have already given in writing that they have no issues if the airport hosts flights during night.
Reader Desk adds:
There was no word on whether the army will vacate the sites it had been asked to last year at the Military-Civilian Liaison conference chaired by late chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed.