New Delhi: The Indian Air force (IAF) has cleared 12 National Highways (NHs) as emergency landing airstrips that will enable rescue operation teams to reach affected areas easily, an official responsible for executing the project said.
Although there was initially a proposal to develop a total of 21 NHs into airstrips, for now 12 highways have been cleared, with three of those connecting Odisha, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh — all Maoist-affected areas, which also witness vagaries of nature like floods and cyclones almost every year.
Despite repeated attempts, the IAF had no comment to offer on the project and on related issues like the facilities to be put in place if the highways are to be used in times of emergencies.
To start with, the thickness of tar will be increased and highways will be made strong enough for aircraft to land.
According to the Ministry of Road, Transport, Highways and Shipping (MoRTH), the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has been chosen as the executing agency.
One major reason behind the initiative is to strategically operate in places prone to natural calamities and where relief work cannot be carried out without the help of choppers or aircraft.
Elaborating on the planning of the entire project, the official said that the selection of highways had been done in a way that the entire country could be covered during natural calamities.
In 2016, Minister of Road, Transport, Highways and Shipping Nitin Gadkari had announced the project and the formation of a committee to come up with specifications for highway stretches that can double up as airstrips.
The committee will look into details like feasibility of the stretches, their length and breadth, among other issues.