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Airport in Kothagudem to remain a dream?

Airport in Kothagudem to remain a dream?
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It seems the longcherished dream of people of Kothagudem to have a greenfield airport is not going to be a reality any time soon due to the opposition...

Kothagudem: It seems the long-cherished dream of people of Kothagudem to have a greenfield airport is not going to be a reality any time soon due to the opposition of residents of the proposed site and other reasons.

Though the Central government has already sanctioned an airport in the coal town, and the committee set up to study the feasibility of setting up the airport in Punukuduchelaka village under Mylavaram Panchayat submitted its report, the villagers are not in favour of setting up the airport in the proposed site, apparently leading to undue delay in taking up the project.

Punukuduchelaka village is 20 kilometres away from the district headquarters of Kothagudem and 240 kilometres from the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport at Shamshbad in the State capital. Though the committee visited the area and studied the place, rumour is flying thick and fast they found the site not feasible for the project and are planning to shift to Palvoncha.

With this, people in Kothagudem are a dampened lot as their dream to have an airport in their district is slipping away. Bhadradri- Kothagudem district is a hub of industries. Presence of major industries in towns of Palvoncha, Kothagudem, Manuguru, Aswapuram and Sarapaka (Bhadrachalam) is expected to generate air traffic.

Keeping this in view, the Central government has sanctioned the airport in the district. As several important industries including Singareni Collieries Company Limited, heavy water plant, ITC Paper Board Plant, Kothagudem Thermal Power Plant, Navabharat Ferro Industries and NMDC and the famous Lord Rama temple at Bhadrachalam are in the district, an airport can easily connect the adjoining States of Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and others to Kothagudem.

Officials identified 1,600 acres of land in Punukuduchelaka for the construction of airport. The Telangana State Industrial Infrastructure Corporation Limited (TSIIC) has entrusted the task of conducting a techno economic feasibility study of the project to the Rail India Technical and Economic Services (RITES) last year.

The RITES team comprising Senior Deputy General Manager Abbas Kumar, Assistant Manager Vivek and another member Raju visited the area August 6 last year. It studied the area and conducted a survey of 850 acres of land against the 1,600 acres earmarked in the village. It also submitted a report to the government.

However, for the past one year, the villagers of Punukuduchelaka have been staging many agitations against the proposed airport in their village. They also submitted several petitions to the concerned authorities against the airport. According to the villagers, they are living in that area by only cultivating in the fields where the proposed airport will come up.

If the airport is constructed in the village, they allege, they will be deprived of their livelihood. They held many protest programmes in the district headquarters for stopping the construction of airport in the village.

Following this, the government had to change the decision to set up the airport there and to find a new place in Palvoncha mandal which is also near to Kothagudem, according the sources. The rumour is doing round that the location of the proposed airport is being changed from Penukuduchelaka to Palvoncha.

In other hand, due to non-clearance of Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) and other Central agencies is also going to be a stumbling block in setting up the airport anytime soon. The proposed site is 819 acres of full forest land.

Communist Party of India State joint secretary and former MLA Kunamneni Sambhasiva Rao said as per the provisions of the Panchayats Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act in Tribal Areas, any new project should have the clearance of the concerned gram panchayat and the Grama Sabha. He said they were not against the airport construction, but not at the cost of tribal cultivated lands. Kothagudem MLA Jalagam VenkatRao said the place was not identified yet. However, he said works for the airport will begin soon.

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