TR Zeliang-Paiwang duel over airport projects

Correspondent KOHIMA, FEB 10 (NPN) | Publish Date: 2/10/2020 12:56:26 PM IST
Opposition leader T.R. Zeliang criticized minister transport, civil aviations and railway P. Paiwang Konyak over his statement on proposed Chiethu airport project and cautioned him not to speak on his own but stick to what the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MCA) had instructed/notified. 
 Earlier, replying to a starred question raised by NPF member Dr. Ngangshi K Ao on Chiethu airport project, the minister P. Paiwang Konyak said that technical team from the MCA has cleared the aerial, water, land and road feasibility except for the category of the aircraft to be flown.
Paiwang said that as per advise of the MCA , the State government floated a tender inviting AAI empanelled consultant for preparation of Detailed Project Report (DPR). He said the tender formalities was under process and expected to be finalized shortly. Paiwang disclosed that the land at Chiethu was acquired at a cost of Rs. 8.65 crore for 465.2 acres in 2017. 
To a supplementary on whether there was another option if Chiethu airport was not feasible, he replied that as the national policy, the airport should be established in state capital since it was under Greenfield project. Paiwang also informed that survey was conducted on the proposed site at Rüzaphema, 35 kms away from the current airport in Dimapur.
He said there was an issue with the land compensation for the proposed Ruzhaphe airport project since the land owner had asked for Rs. 50 per square feet . He said the rate was found to be too high for the government as it has to procure 500 acres to set up an airport. Paiwang also clarified that the proposed airport project at Ruzaphe was not abandoned but placed aside for “upcoming solution”. 
Leader of the Opposition (LoO) T.R. Zeliang countered by pointing to AAI guideline which stipulated that there cannot be another airport within 150 kms radius and while Dimapur airport has no more scope for extension. Zeliang said the present Dimapur airport can used as a helipad or for a small aircraft training centre but it cannot become an international airport. 
Rooting for the proposed Ruzaphe airport project Zeliang said the project can be taken up since the price for land compensation after the first negotiation taken up at the DC level was reduced to Rs. 25 per Sq. Feet. He said the land owner finally agreed to reduce the rate to Rs. 22 per sq.feet though government offer was Rs. 20 per Sq.feet.
Comparing Ruzaphe and Chiethu, Zeliang asked whether Chiethu can ever become an international airport? He said, when the technical team from the MCA had recommended in favour of Ruzaphe, he advised Paiwang to continue with the negotiations for finalising land compensation at Ruzaphe. 
Zeliang also urged upon the minister (Paiwang) to reconsider the Ruzaphe airport project which has higher potential for expansion into an international airport. 
Responding to the leader of opposition, the minister reiterated that he was not aware of the latest negotiations for land compensation for the proposed Ruzaphe airport project but reiterated that the project was not abandoned but left for future consideration. He said the feasibility report that the proposed Chiethu airport did not have the capacity to become an international airport was not relevant. 
Paiwand further revealed that the AAI did not accept the proposed Ruzaphe aiport since it was close to Dimapur airport and that the state government already has land at Chiethu but not at Ruzaphe. 
Leader of the House and chief minister Neiphiu Rio intervened and said whether it was Ruzaphe or Chiethu there should not be an issue because every state capital was entitled to have an airport. 
He also said Chiethu airport was a commitment of former prime minister late Atal Bihari Vajpayee for an airport in state capital. 
Rio also informed that Chiethu has the feasibility of having 4.4 kms runways while the Dimapur airport has only 2.2 runways and therefore, it remained as the only alternative. 
 Rio said a hillock had to be levelled at Chiethu to construct the 4.4 kms runway because of which took some time.
He also informed that Dimapur airport was purchased by the state government and handed over to AAI. However at the level of DC Dimapur, more than 40 acres of the airport and Chathe river was allotted to outsiders. He said the issue was being taken up through a committee but the occupants have gone to court and hearing awaited. 
Zeliang argued that the opposition members were not disputing about Chiethu or Ruzaphe but said land compensation should not be the sole reason for abandoning the proposed Ruzaphe airport project . He said the technical team has recommended it and was later approved by AAI. During the heated debate, Zeliang asked Paiwing if he recalled being a minister under him(Zeliang). 
He also informed Paiwang that a copy of the negotiation at the DC level was available with the department and advised him(Paiwang) to verify and update it with his department.
Reacting to Zeliang the minister reiterated that as minister of civil aviation for the second term, he was aware of the matter and repeated that Ruzaphe has not been abandoned .Paiwang also said today Zeliang is in opposition while he continued as minister of the same portfolio and therefore, knows what was going in the department. 
Zeliang countered by citing the statement in parliament in July last year, by the minister of civil aviation,wherein he categorically stated that Chiethu airport was not feasible and the DPR was exorbitant. 
Amid the heated arguments, Paiwang handed out a copy of MCA’s notification for floating a tender for appointment of consultants. 

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