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HindustanTimes Mon,22 Sep 2014

Centre reviews demand for airstrip near China border

Gaurav Bisht, Hindustan Times  Shimla, September 05, 2014
First Published: 11:58 IST(5/9/2014) | Last Updated: 12:00 IST(5/9/2014)

While China is fast increasing its civil and military infrastructure along the Indian border, the union defence ministry is reviewing the long pending demand of Himachal Pradesh for setting up an airstrip at Rangrik in Lahaul and Spiti, situated close to the border.

It was about two decades ago that the state government had initiated plan to set up an airport in the cold desert of Spiti to give impetus to tourism as well as to provide connectivity to the region that remains snow-bound for six months a year.

Despite various surveys and feasibility studies, the plan to to set up an air strip has been hanging fire. Both the Indian Air Force and the Airport Authority of India (AAI) had carried out different surveys to build an airport at Rangrik. China’s building up its might along the border areas has once again brought focus on plans for the proposed airport at Rangrik.

Chief minister Virbhadra Singh himself had pursued the matter with the central government.

According to the plan, the airstrip was supposed to be con structed on hill-top at Rangrik  village. The tenth finance commission in 1995 had sanctioned `30 crore for construction of airports at Rangrik in Spiti and Banikhet in Chamba district.  

But a letter written by Lahaul and Spiti legislator Ravi Thakur recently has invoked a fresh response from the defence ministry. “I am having the matter looked into,” responded Arun Jaitely to Ravi Thakur’s letter.

Thakur had asked the government to consider and speed up construction of an airport for defence and civil purposes at Rangrik.

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