The Defence ministry has given clearance to the Union Ministry of Roads and Highways for using 17 highways across India for landings and takeoffs of defence aircraft provided the 'technical conditions' are fulfilled. It is being said that these highways can be used for relief operations during disasters.
According to a DNA report, the listed highways are - Bijbehera-Chinar Bagh, Banihal-Srinagar, Kharagpur-Balasore, Kharagpur-Keonjhar, Lucknow-Agra Expressway, Phalodi-Jaisalmer, Barmer-Jaisalmer, Dwarka-Maliya, Nellore-Ongole, Ongole-Chikaluripet, Chennai-Puducherry, Kodiakkarai-Ramanathapuram and Lucknow Ballia Expressway.
Except for the Lucknow-Agra expressway, these highways are under various stages of development and require investments of at least Rs 10,000 crore.
Nitin Gadkari, union minister of roads and highways, has said that the idea was up for discussion last year and the defence minister had given a nod for 17 highways to be used as airstrips. Further, the ministry has chipped in a few suggestions on dimensions for these airstrips which have been incorporated in most highways.
Also, he added that the ministry proposes to use 22 stretches for takeoffs and landings of commercial flights. Talks are on with the Directorate General of Civil Aviation on the same.
In a few states, like Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Rajasthan, landing planes on highways might turn out to be useful as it is difficult to construct greenfield airports at these places. However, it is feared that vehicle movement on highways will be affected due by the landing activity.
The trial to check if highways could be used for landing aircraft happened at the Yamuna Expressway near Mathura where the Indian Air Force landed a Mirage-2000.