Decks cleared for development of World War II era airstrip into an airport in Odisha

Decks have been cleared for the development of World War II era Amarda Road Airstrip in Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district under the Regional Connectivity Scheme- UDAN after the Union Ministry of Defence granted working permission on defence land admeasuring 160.35 acres of land.

Amarda Road Airstrip’s runway measuring 3.5 km is stated to be the longest runway in Asia. It was used as a landing ground for planes and training space for special bombing missions during World War II. The airstrip is sprawled over 900 acres of land.

There had been a demand to develop the airstrip as a full-fledged airport catering to the demands of north Odisha, south West Bengal, and parts of Jharkhand. It was already included under the RCS-UDAN scheme by the Ministry of Civil Aviation. During a land survey by the technical committee, it was found that 160 acres of land belonged to Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

Union Minister of State for Tribal Affairs Bishweswar Tudu and the local MP followed it up with MoD for expeditious clearance over the land.

“The Ministry of Defence on Tuesday conveyed the sanction of the President of India for grant of working permission to State Government of Odisha on defence land admeasuring 160.35 acres at Amarda Road in the District of Mayurbhanj for development of Airstrip at Rasgovindpur near Amarda Road in Mayurbhanj District, Odisha on the basis of cash compensation amounting to ₹26.03 crore in lieu of defence land,” stated an MoD letter issued on November 22.

A separate Board of Officers (BOO) would be convened to ascertain the exact location, demarcation of land, its cost and modalities of transfer, security and safety measures, government or private assets, and cost of their demolition, relocation, and reconstruction before handing and taking over the defense land for purpose of commencement of work.

Besides, the BOO would also demarcate the quantum of land to be mutually used by the Odisha government and DRDO. The BOO will complete the proceeding within four weeks from the issue of the working permission, MoD letter stated.

According to Anil Dhir, a historian, built in the 1940s at a cost of ₹3 crore, it was eventually abandoned after the war.

“It was named the Amarda Road Airfield due to the nearby Amarda Road railway station. Even today, seven decades after the base was made, one can still see the remains of the airfield with an 11,000-feet concrete runway still intact,” said Mr. Dhir, who has been taking a lead in keeping the memory of 14 airmen killed in low altitude mid-air collision of two World War-II aircrafts over the airstrip alive.

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