Former Chief Minister R P Nishank held “bhoomi pujan” for the Naini-Saini airport in Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand, its modernisation and expansion works hit a roadblock following an agitation by the locals. An investment of Rs 55 crore is proposed for the modernisation and expansion work of the airport in the picturesque Pithoragarh for promoting tourism.The locals are demanding jobs in the government services as well as strengthening of new facilities like schools near the airport where the government had acquired a big chunk of land for the expansion of the airport, which is hanging fire for the past several years. The locals during the past few days have stalled the construction work of the boundary wall of the airport.

When contacted, parliamentary affairs minister Prakash Pant, who is local MLA from Pithoragarh, also said the government was holding talks with the locals to resolve the issue. “I am confident that this issue will be resolved,” Pant said. After the 'bhoomi pujan’, the government has decided to release the first installment of Rs 5 crore for the project for which the deadline for completion is 2011. The government had already appointed the Uttarakhand State Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (USIDCL) as the nodal agency for the expansion work of the airport project.

Significantly, the Naini -Saini airport hit a roadblock last year also after the government cancelled the tender process for hiring a consultancy firm on technical grounds.Later, the government decided to handover the airport development process to the USIDCL, which was set up last year.The government has so far spent Rs 20 crore for acquiring 15 hectare of additional land for the expansion purpose. A total of six villages have been affected by the land acquisition process. Under the modernisation plan, the airport is being upgraded to facilitate the landing of ATR 72 aircraft. The runway is expected to be 1,600 metre long and 30 metre wide.

Four hangers for the parking of aircraft are also being proposed at the airport.

Meanwhile, the government has hired STUP, a Mumbai-based company as the consultant for the airport project.

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