File image of Pakyong Airport in Sikkim Credit: Pankaj Dhungel

Gangtok: A Green Airfield Airport in Pakyong has long been one of the most ambitious projects of the Airport Authority of India. Built at a cost of Rs 603 crore under Project UDAN, the airport began operations on January 23, 2020, after a 19-month hiatus. So long the airport struggled with low visibility issues to safely land aircraft and its tabletop runway surface developing cracks.

But the troubles with Pakyong Airport, which was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in September, 2018, go beyond its boundary. The surrounding localities are now ravaged by sinking of the hill slope under pressure from the airport. The geography of the Pakyong sub-division has changed with damaged land, cultivation, and destruction of 165 houses.

The surrounding locality has been ravaged by hill slope sinking under pressure from the airport

Also Read: Sikkim: SpiceJet only airline to operate from Pakyong airport from January 23

Pakyong locals have been fighting a long legal battle for compensation for their homes and lands. Even as the state government has promised justice, people, under debt, now stand with different rates of compensation offered and released.

Locals here have not only lost their ancestral properties, but also their means of livelihood, and are now under debt to be able to pay for the construction of new houses, sans resettlement.

The airport construction damaged almost 165 housing properties

Earlier on January 28, commercial flight operations by SpiceJet recommenced with a Delhi-Pakyong flight after being closed for 19 months. In June 2019, the airline had suspened the airport’s only commercial flight, between Kolkata and Pakyong, due to bad weather conditions and technical problems.

Will Pakyong Airport prove to be the real development the people of Sikkim are looking for? Watch EastMojo’s documentary ‘Pakyong Airport: A boon or a bane?

Also Read: What the Nakula border clash means for Sikkim locals

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