Kolkata, India: The green cover in Barasat area of North 24-Parganas is giving airport authorities sleepless nights. The latest cartography surveys done by Airports Authority of India at Kolkata revealed that 19 coconut trees had grown beyond the average height to hinder the landing or takeoff path at the Madhyamgram-end. While the average height of coconut trees in the region is 45-50 feet, the survey discovered that some trees had grown beyond 60 feet. That is as high as a six to seven storey building in a zone where construction isn’t allowed beyond two levels.
“There are 19 obstructions in the flight path, all of them are coconut trees in Michael Nagar, North Barrackpore and Madhyamgram. We have handed over the aerial survey map to the district administration so that the owners of the particular trees can be identified and action initiated to cut them down,” said a senior airport official.
That is easier said than done. Due to lack of digitised land maps or familiarity with websites like Google Earth that can help zoom in on trees “trespassing” into the flight path, municipal authorities take over a year to locate the premises and identify a particular tree in a grove of hundreds.
“Even after the tree has been identified, convincing the owner that it is posing a threat to planes is a tough ask. Pruning the tree does not help because the tree then dies anyway. There is an issue of compensation that crops up since the trees are a source of family income,” a civic official from North Dum Dum said.
Two years ago, 55 obstructions were removed following a similar survey. These included trees as well as industrial chimneys in Ganganagar and New Barrackpore. No fresh man-made obstruction has been sighted in the last survey done in 2007.
“There is a need for greater cooperation between multiple agencies to ensure that air safety is not breached and rules of the Indian Aircraft Act, 1937, are enforced,” state home secretary G D Gautama said. Rule 90 of the Act places height restriction on buildings within 20 km radius of the aerodrome reference point.