Kashmir craves for civil airport

After rejection of state proposal, stakeholders plan to approach New Delhi

The demand for civil airport has gone shriller in Kashmir with stakeholder planning to approach to the centre government in this regard.
The stakeholders have decided to approach to the centre government following union Civilian Aviation ministry’s rejection of a proposal by the state for setting up civil airport at Shariefabad in Srinagar district.
Sources said after assessing the land at the site, the civil aviation ministry decided against the proposal and informed the state government that construction of civil airport at the proposed site won’t be feasible.
“They cited the surrounding population and shortage of space as the reason and stated that it would hinder the flight of aircrafts there.”
However, the stakeholders argue that had the state government been really serious about constructing a civil airport in Kashmir, they could have identified some other sites.
President, Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), Sheikh Ashiq told Greater Kashmir that the chamber will approach the Union Civil Aviation ministry as there is dire need of civil airport in Kashmir.
“Kashmir is a tourism destination and it does not look nice when tourists arrive at Defence airport,” he said, adding that the chamber will take the matter with the centre government and will demand establishment of a civil airport in Kashmir.
“It is irony that after the proposal of civil airport at Shariefabad did not materialize the state government has stopped then and there. It has not put in any effort to go for identifying some other place which according to the criteria of the civil aviation ministry could be feasible,” he said.
The demand for civil airport in Srinagar has gained momentum after Indian Air Force curtailed the flight schedules to 4.30 Pm at Srinagar International Airport in the wake of renovation of runway.
Chairman, Jammu and Kashmir Hoteliers Club, Mushtaq Chaya told Greater Kashmir that  Prime Minister’s Expert Group on job avenues in Jammu and Kashmir, headed by Dr C Rangarajan,  in its report has highlighted the need for a civil airport.
“The Civil Airport should be the utmost priority of the state government, as it is the necessity for the development of tourism sector in the Valley,” Chaya said.
Hoteliers Club also criticized the Indian Air Force for undertaking renovation of runway at the peak of tourism season in Kashmir.
“We are not against the renovation but it could have  been deferred as our trade has been badly affected by the untimely decision of the IAF,” Chaya said.
Chairman, Nigeen Lake Conservation Organization and noted tourism player, Manzoor Wangnoo said that if smaller places like Leh could have airport “why can’t the state government find suitable place in Kashmir for a civil airport?” he asked.
Chairman, Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO) JK Chapter, Abdul Khaliq Wangnoo said that sustainable tourism, civil airport is a must.
“The Srinagar International Airport is a Defence airport and once tourists land there they feel like they are in warzone with announcements going around asking them not to take pictures,” he said, adding that it creates fear psychosis among the visitors.
When contacted, Minister for Tourism, Ghulam Ahmad Mir said that civil aviation ministry is under the control of Chief Minister. “I am not in position to elaborate anything about the issue, but there is growing demand from tourism players and stakeholders for having a civil airport in Kashmir,” he said.

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