Kolkata, Sep 23: The Civil Aviation Ministry has planned to increase the number of airports in the country to 500 from the present 80 to facilitate movement of the growing volume of passengers and freight. "The country should have at least 500 airports for which my Ministry has urged the state Governments to provide necessary infrastructural support, including land and road connectivity," Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said here today.
Talking to reporters at the foundation laying ceremony for airside development work at Behala flying club on the city's western part, Mr Patel said already Maharashtra, Karnataka, Gujarat, Chhatisgarh and West Bengal have approached the Centre for developing new airports.
At present the country has only 80 operational airports while there were more than 5,000 airports in the USA, he said.
Mr.Patel said the Civil Aviation Ministry was planning to develop a full-fledged airport at Behala for which the West Bengal Government had been asked to acquire 20 to 30 acres of land.
The land would be required mainly for increasing the length of the runway of the flying club to 4,500 metres from the present 3,000 metres.
"We are planning to start commercial operation from Behala to the North-Eastern states and North Bengal," he said.
Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who was present on the occasion, said the state Government would provide all necessary support to the Civil Aviation Ministry and the Airport Authority of India (AAI) for the proposed new airport.
The Centre has already sanctioned Rs. ten crore to be spent in the first phase on modernisation of the Behala airstrip and improvement of other infrastructure, including the boundary wall and lighting facilities.
Local MP Shamik Lahiri told reporters that acquisition of land for the proposed airport should not pose any problem since the Government had a proper rehabilitation package for the prospective land losers and efforts were on strike a consensus among all the political parties.