India and Sri Lanka have agreed that the Jaffna airport in North Sri Lanka should be upgraded to be an international airport without extending the runway because fresh land acquisition is being opposed by the local people.
A five-member technical team of the Airports Authority of India (AAI) Chennai which inspected the airport recently, concluded that it could be upgraded without acquiring more land, the Indian Consul General in Jaffna, A.Natarajan, told Express on Tuesday.
“Normally, airports are built with future traffic and bigger aircraft in mind, but if something has to be done quickly in Jaffna without raking up a controversy over land acquisition, upgrading the facilities without extending the runway is the best option,” another Indian official said.
According to Natarajan an upgraded airport may become operational in a year.
The people of the area have been fearing that agricultural land which ought to be returned to them by the Lankan military after the war, may be acquired for the expansion of the airport. Northern Province Chief Minister C.V.Wigneswaran had also said that any improvements to the airport will have to be done without depriving the people of their lands.
Jaffna airport now has a runway of 2.3 kilometers which is said to be enough to take narrow body jet passenger aircraft like Boeing 717 which can carry 100 passengers.