Stretches on 29 highways to serve as emergency airstrips

The Centre plans to set up 29 airstrips on National Highways at strategic locations for emergency landings by fighter aircraft, according to the transport ministry.

The proposed strips have been planned on highways and roads near the international border in the states of Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttarakhand, Manipur and West Bengal. Three are planned on highways connecting Odisha, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh — all Maoist-affected areas. Emergency strips are also planned in the southern states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

The ministry of road transport and highways, in 2016, announced the formation of an inter-ministerial joint committee with the ministry of defence and the Indian Air Force to look into the feasibility of setting up these strips and to arrive at the technical details. IAF and the National Highways Authority of India were tasked with the site survey and inspection. “The work of site survey and inspection as well as the planning and bidding of the Emergency Landing Facilities are at different stages. The completion period of work has been kept as eight months,” union minister of state for road transport and highways Mansukh Mandaviya informed Lok Sabha on January 7.

In November, Mandaviya announced that the Centre has identified 13 roads across states where emergency landings can take place. Eleven of the roads were under the National Highways Authority of India while the other two were state highways. According to the ministry of road transport and highways, only one such strip is operational — on the Lucknow- Agra Expressway in Uttar Pradesh.

Out of the 29 proposed stretches by IAF, bidding has begun for strips on three highways — from Bijbehera to Chinar Bagh in Jammu & Kashmir, Kharagpur in West Bengal to Keonjhar in Odisha and Nellore to Ongole in Andhra Pradesh.

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