Shimla: The state government’s proposal to construct an international ‘Greenfield’ airport at Nagchala in Mandi district has met with stiff opposition from farmers.

The farmers rue that the airport was being constructed on the fertile agricultural land of Balh valley without their consent.

Farmer Sangarh Samiti president Joginder Walia and Secretary Nand Lal Verma in a joint press statement said that despite resentment of the farming community of the area, the Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur on Friday convened a high level meeting and directed the officers to expedite the various formalities for the construction if the airport at Nagchala.

“The proposed airport having 2150 meter runway is proposed only for ATS-72 seater aircraft for domestic flights, however, for the construction of international airport, 3150 meter runway will be required to be constructed,” they said.

According to OLS Survey the Sundernagar hills (Bandli Dhar) about 500 meters will be required to be cut which is not possible, they stated.

“The Bhuntar Airport air distance is 30 kms and Shimla Airport and Gaggal airport is around 50 kms from here, are also being upgraded to airport of international level,” they said, questioning the need to construct an airport on the fertile land of Balh valley.   

Had the government been keen and committed on constructing an international airport, this can be done without cutting the hills and at a low cost at Jahu, without displacing the farmers, they added.

Nand Lal said that the proposed airport at Nagchala will affect around 2000 families of eight villages Siyaha, Tanva, Jarelu, Kummi, Chattru, Daban and Dungrai that has a population of 10,000 people. The farmers will be rendered landless and will be completely displaced, he added.      

They also suggested alternative and suitable places Nandgarh, Dhangsidhar, Mauviseri in Mandi district for construction of airport that could facilitate landing of 72 seater aircraft.

Jahu, they argued, could be the most suitable alternative as already 80 percent government land was available and this airport could cater to three districts Mandi, Bilaspur and Hamirpur and it is only at a distance of 20 kms from Nerchowk Mandi.

Walia said, “Himachal government has still not implemented Land Acquisition Act 2013, nor has announced any policy for resettlement and rehabilitation. The compensation for the land on circle rate and the circle rate is so less that the farmers will get peanuts for their fertile land which is Rs 1.60 lakh per Bigha according to the circle rate declared by the administration. Whereas, the fact is that the farmers were earning Rs 3 lakh to Rs 4 lakh per bigha annually, for their cash crops. ”

Demanding that the proposed airport be shifted to some other place, the Sangarsh Samiti has threatened to hold protest if the state government does not accede to their demands.