Pune's Lohegaon airport runway to be extended
The long-drawn process for the acquisition of 20 acres of land to facilitate the extension of runway at the Indian Air Force’s station (AFS) at Lohegaon finally concluded on Saturday with Pune district collectorate handing it over to the IAF. The runway extension project is critical not only for the IAF’s activities but also for expansion of passenger flight operations from the Lohegaon civil enclave, which handles 38 flights and 6,000 passengers daily, including international services to Dubai and Frankfurt for three to four days a week. The existing length of the Lohegaon runway is 8,300 feet and it is proposed to be extended by 2,200 feet. This will facilitate landing of wide-bodied aircraft like Airbus A340s and Boeing 747s, which have the capacity to carry more passengers compared to the short-winged Airbus 319s and 320s and Boeing 737-8 that currently operate from the civil enclave. Short-winged aircraft have the capacity to carry between 120 and 180 passengers. The project will also provide an opportunity to increase the number of domestic as well as international flights from Pune. The process had been stuck in a prolonged legal tussle, first in the Bombay High Court and then in the Supreme Court. In April last year, the apex court dismissed a special leave petition (SLP) challenging the high court’s order of September 9, 2008, which had dismissed a writ petition against the Pune district administration’s move to acquire the land. That paved the way for actual acquisition work and award of compensation. Asked why it took almost a year for the collectorate to complete the process, Dalvi said, “The process was being executed by our land acquisition officer. We were waiting for the IAF to hand over the compensation amount, which we received recently.” The petition in the high court had been filed by one Chango Dethe on behalf of a private resort company stating, among other things, that the proposed extension work would render the existing road to the Lohegaon village inaccessible for the villagers. The district administration countered this argument by stating that there existed an alternative road to the village. It was the then Pune divisional commissioner Nitin Kareer who issued a notification on August 28, 2009, invoking provisions under Section 6 of the Land Acquisition Act of 1894.