18 Mar 2008
Attempts by Pawan Hans to connect tourist destinations with helicopter services is encountering roadblocks of a peculiar nature. While at Hemkund Sahib in Uttarakhand it is religious objections that’s holding back the helicopter services, at Ooty it is the dislocation of some 30 animals that has jeopardised Pawan Hans’ plans.
At both the hill stations, the Pawan Hans Helicopters Limited (PHHL) was to start operations from already existing helipads that needed minor upgradation. So, when at the behest of Uttarakhand Government, PHHL started to study possibilities of helicopter services to the picturesque Sikh shrine at Hemkund Sahib, the shrine’s priests objected vociferously. They argued that the helipad is located at an altitude higher than the shrine and it will be disrespect to the shrine to have helicopters land just above it.
“That has sabotaged helicopter plans for the shrine. The problem is that there are no suitable sites in that area for construction of another helipad, probably lower than the shrine,” said officials from the Ministry of Civil Aviation.
At Ooty’s Theetukal helipad, it is the question of dislocating 30 animals that has put on hold a two-year plan proposed by the Tamil Nadu Government to run chopper services between Coimbatore and the Nilgiri hill station.
In use for defence and VIP chopper services, the helipad had been approved years ago by the Airports Authority of India and more recently been examined and found ideal for operations by Pawan Hans officials. So, after the state tourism department showed the helipad as ‘site identified’ to Pawan Hans officials and the latter signed up private firm JB Aviation for marketing last year, taking lakhs as mobilisation advance, the project has now come to a halt.
“Tamil Nadu wanted tourist helicopter services to Ooty, Madurai, Kodaikanal and Rameshwaram. In the first phase, it was planned that we will start services between Coimbatore and Ooty, followed by operations from Madurai. But the first phase itself is stuck. This whole exercise has been going on for two years now,” added ministry officials.
While the tourism department said it would give the animal husbandry department five acres of land in lieu of the helipad land and will create a separate access to it and ensure that livestock in the area is not disturbed, the latter is not satisfied. The animal husbandry department has demanded that it be given 30 acres of land elsewhere in Ooty. It is next to impossible to fulfil this demand in highly commercialised Ooty.
Incidentally, Tamil Nadu and Uttarkahand are the two states where PHHL is getting actively involved in tourist centric helicopter services.
Its hangar at Gauchar in Uttarakhand is set to be ready later this month and it already operates services to Kedarnath.
News Source: http://www.indianexpress.com/