After a recent plane crash in Kozhikode, the Airport Authority of India has once again turned its attention to a 130-year-old mosque located on the premises of the Kolkata airport for the runway safety.
The Bnakra Mosque situated on the northern edge of the secondary runway of the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport is viewed as a safety threat by the AAI, which has raised the issue of its relocation after the August-07 plane crash that killed 19 persons, including two pilots.
AAI chairman Arvind Singh has taken up the matter with the state government after the Kozhikode incident, an AAI official in Kolkata said, adding the issue of runway safety was also raised with the state government in February.
The official pointed out that according to airport safety rules, on runways where large aircraft take off and land, there should be at least 240 metres of space after the endpoint of each airstrip for the runway safety area.
But in case of the secondary runway at the Kolkata airport only 160 metres of space or gap could be maintained at the end of the strip, the official added.
The mosque existed there on 1,200 square feet of land since 1890, even before the airport was founded in the early 1900s. The religious site was found precariously positioned within the extended premises of the airport after the aerodrome was expanded with the acquisition of more land in the 1960s.
The management committee of the mosque and devotees are however surprised that the AAI has started raking up the issue once again, 17 years after the Civil Aviation Ministry and the state government had settled the issue.
Erstwhile civil aviation minister Shahnawaz Hussain and the then West Bengal chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee after a marathon meeting in Kolkata on January 30, 2003, had worked out an alternative roadmap for the expansion of the strip. Accordingly, the state government agreed to divert a road alongside the airport to facilitate the extension of the runway towards the southern end.
“Why are they (AAI authorities) making noise again? Our stand from the beginning is very clear. We are not going to hand over the religious site where more than 150 faithful offer namaz on every Friday. Iftars are held there every year,” said West Bengal Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind president Siddiqullah Chowdhury, who is also associated with the management committee of the mosque.
“There is no need to disturb the mosque for the further expansion of the runaway as has been done in the past,” said Chowdhury, who is also a minister in the Mamata Banerjee government.
The AAI official said even after the extension of the secondary runway (towards the southern end (opposite end of the mosque), it could not match the length of the primary runway.
The length of the primary runway (01R/19L) is 3,627 metre and the secondary runway (01L/19R) is 3,190 metre.