By Sujit Chakraborty
Agartala, Aug 7 (IANS) The Indian government has sought 52 acres of land from Bangladesh to expand the runway of Agartala’s Maharaja Bir Bikram airport, top officials said on Wednesday.
The second busiest airport in the Northeast, the Agartala airport currently operates on 509 acres of land and sits just along the Bangladesh border.
Airport Authority of India (AAI) Director Bipin Kant Seth said they had requested the Tripura government to take up with the Centre the issue of requirement of the additional 52 acres of land from Bangladesh to expand the runway.
“If we get the additional 52 acres of land, the existing runway can be expanded to facilitate operation of big and international aircraft,” Seth told IANS.
Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb confirmed that the state government had taken up the matter with the Central government, which has submitted a proposal before the Bangladesh government.
“The Agartala airport is used not just by people from Northeast India, but also by Bangladeshis to travel outside their country. The people of both the countries would benefit if airbus and other large aircraft can operate from the airport,” the Chief Minister said.
Deb said the airport would require an investment of Rs 1,500 to Rs 1,600 crore, if Bangladesh gives Tripura the land sought.
A senior Tripura Transport Department official said: “The additional land sought falls in Hirapur village of Brahmanbaria district of eastern Bangladesh. But we would come to know about nature of the land only after carrying out a survey.”
Built in 1942 by the last king of erstwhile princely state of Tripura, Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya Bahadur (1923-1947), the Agartala airport played a crucial role during World War II, when it was used by the 4th Combat Cargo Group (4th CCG) of the US Army Air Forces to fly Curtiss C-46 Commando aircraft over Myanmar (then Burma).
Having renamed it last year as Maharaja Bir Bikram airport, the AAI is now working to upgrade it to international standards in a Rs 438-crore project.
The Tripura government had already provided 72 acres of land to AAI for construction of its new terminal building, runway and other necessary infrastructure.
“By the end of 2019 or early 2020, Agartala airport would become the third international airport in the northeastern region after Guwahati and Imphal,” said Tripura Transport and Tourism Minister Pranajit Singha Roy.
“Flights can then be operated between Agartala and Dhaka, as well as other Bangladeshi cities like Chittagong and Sylhet,” Singha Roy told IANS.
(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted by [email protected])