Friday, March 5

Uttarakhand govt, Centre told to reply to PIL against land transfer for new airport

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Uttarakhand high court has asked the Centre, state government and the Airport Authority of India (AII) to submit their replies, within two weeks, on the public interest litigation (PIL) challenging the transfer of 1072 acre land of GB Pant University of Agriculture and Technology in Kumaon’s US Nagar for construction of a greenfield airport there.

The airport would be built with the prospect of being upgraded to an international one in future as per the existing plan

The division bench of acting chief justice Ravi Vijaykumar Malimath and justice Alok Kumar Verma asked for the responses while hearing a PIL filed by US Nagar district-based social activist Keshav Kumar Passi.

Pantnagar already has an airport and flights operate from there to Delhi and Dehradun. But to boost tourism and the industrial sector in Kumaon, another airport was proposed. The Pantnagar Airport currently has about 267 acres of land with a 530 sq m passenger terminal. The handling capacity of the airport is 50 passengers in peak hours. With the creation of a greenfield airport, the capacity will increase considerably, as per the plan.

The PIL alleged that of 14,241 acres of the total land of Govind Ballabh Pant University of Agriculture and Technology at US Nagar, 4,223 acres has already been transferred to various agencies and government departments since 1974 for non-agriculture purposes. It also pointed out that the varsity was established in 1960 and has the distinction of being India’s first agriculture university.

“As on date, the university has limited land for agriculture research and out of which 1072 acres land has been transferred by the state government in favour of the Uttarakhand aviation department through an order issued on November 25, 2020”, the PIL said.

The PIL further stated that there is a proposal to build another new airport inside the GB Pant university, three km south of the existing Pantnagar Airport. The existing airport will remain in the north of the university and a new airport will be established in the south of the university, meaning all the activities of the university will be held between the two airports.

“In such eventuality, the agriculture research and seed production area will be reduced to half and harmful carbon emissions from the airplanes of both airports…will severely affect the research programme of the university”.

The PIL has sought the quashing of the November 25 order of the state government and subsequent transfer of 1072 acre land of the university to the state aviation department. The transfer of land was carried out on December 12, 2020 after a mutation in favour of the state aviation department.