The Indian Air Force (IAF) has cleared 12 national highways for emergency landing airstrips. These will enable rescue operation teams to reach the affected areas on time. This was said by an official responsible for the execution of the mission.
Although the initial proposal was to clear out 21 national highways to airstrips, 12 have been cleared. These include the ones connecting Odisha, Jharkhand and Chattisgarh. These areas are all Maoist affected areas that are constantly disturbed by calamities like floods and cyclones every year.
A senior government official told IANS, “The IAF has given clearance to 12 national highways to be developed into emergency landing airstrips out of the total 21. However, on the remaining national highways, discussions and testing are on and soon they too are likely to be cleared by the IAF.”
The IAF although has nothing to say about this. They are not releasing any information about the facilities that will be provided if the highways are to be used as airways.
How will this be done?
The highways will be prepared by increasing the thickness of tar on the roads. They will be made strong enough to hold an aircraft landing. The highways will, however, be open to common people throughout but will be stopped when a landing has to be done.
According to the Ministry of Road, Transport, Highways and Shipping, the NHAI (National Highways Authority of India) has been chosen as the executing agency.
Overall 17 highways were given to NHAI but with time only 12 could be developed out of all the NHs.
NHAI Chairman Deepak Kumar told IANS, “The Bill of Quantities has been prepared and we are waiting for an approval.”
The work is said to start in the next three months.
Why is this being done?
The major reason behind the entire initiative is to smartly operate in places prone to natural calamities and places where relief work cannot be carried out by land i.e. without the help of aircraft or choppers.
Which of the NHs being cleared out?
The national highways being cleared out are:
Jamshedpur-Balasore highway and Chattarpur-Digha highway, the Kishanganj- Islampur highway in Bihar, Delhi-Moradabad highway in Delhi- UP, Bijbehara-Chinar Bagh highway in Jammu and Kashmir, Rampur-Kathgodam highway in Uttarakhand, Lucknow-Varanasi highway in UP, Dwarka-Maliya highway in Gujarat, Kharagpur-Keonjhar highway in West Bengal and Mohanbari-Tinsukia highway in Assam, Vijaywada-Rajahmundry highway in Andhra Pradesh, Chennai-Puducherry highway in Tamil Nadu and Phalodi-Jaisalmer highway in Rajasthan.
The selection of the highways is done such that the entire country can be covered.
The official mentioned, “This initiative is similar to something that was carried out in the World War II.”
He added, “The highways chosen in Odisha are connected to Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. Planning is such that within a short duration, aircraft will be ready to land and the soldiers can be deployed to help during a natural calamity.”
Nitin Gadkari, Minister of Road, Transport, Highways and Shipping announced the project back in 2016 and also decide the committee along with the specifications and details of the project.