• Charudutta Panigrahi

Strangely there is no airport at Brahmapur, Odisha

The oldest airstrips, one of the oldest port city of India, the silk city, struggles for aviation.

source: odishatourism.gov.in

Brahmapur was the epicentre of Odia sub-nationalism and the movement for Odisha state formation gained momentum from the Ganjam alma mater of freedom struggle. The ‘silk city’ known worldwide for silk related enterprise is today the commercial hub closest to the SEZ at Gopalpur – the Gopalpur Industrial park. It is growing at a scorching pace, aiming to be India’s biggest multi-product Special Economic Zone and located strategically at Gopalpur- at-sea. Gopalpur, once the favourite resort of Britishers, was also a commercially successful Port and continues to be so. The contribution of Gopalpur port to the GDP of India would be significant and in the coming years when we are aspiring for a $ 5 trillion economy, it would provide the infrastructural support and gateway by providing access to a cargo variety covering minerals, steel, aluminium, cement, illuminate coal, CP Coke, steel products, industrial salt, granite blocks, BF slag & fertilizers. By 2030 Gopalpur port is projected to be one of the major ports of India. The government is gearing up to set up a Bulk Drug Park within the Tata Steel Special Economic Zone (SEZ) at Gopalpur. The proposed project is part of the state government's aim of creating employment opportunities through industrialization in the non-mineral sector. The location of the proposed drug park spot is well connected with port and railway. The land is well connected with NH-16 which is considered as the spine for the proposed Odisha Economic Corridor.

Gopalpur has the unique distinction of being one of the most natural beaches of India, attracting foreigners and domestic tourists. Besides being an international port for the seafarers of ancient Kalinga, it served as an important military port during the World War –I, from where soldiers sailed to Burma. Ganjam’s connection with Burma has always been strong and deep rooted. It was in Gopalpur where Odisha’s first luxury hotel and the country’s first-of-its-kind beach resort was built. The Palm Beach Resort was built in 1914 by Signor Maglioni and was later acquired by the Oberoi group of hotels in 1948. This is believed to be the iconic group’s first property in the hospitality business, even predating Shimla business.

Brahmapur, the port city is one of the oldest cities of India, known for its rich legacy in women art, weaving and enterprise. Since Brahmapur continues to be the commercial junction of south Odisha, the market caters to more than half of the state. It houses major educational institutes, medical colleges, hospitals.

It is a travesty that Brahmapur, in spite of emerging as the nucleus of heritage, commerce and national growth, does not have an airport till date.

Brahmapur has one of the oldest airstrips of India, at Rangeilunda which can be expanded to a full-capacity airport. Many people from various ministries have inspected the site but what is lacking is concrete action on the ground.

Students, faculties, corporates visit Brahmapur frequently due to the presence of national institutes like the Army AD college, NIST, IISER, two large Universities, one prominent Medical College of eastern India, and eight engineering colleges. The nearest airport is 200 kms (Bhubaneswar and Vishakpatnam) away and this affects the business and careers, negatively. One of the revered Buddhist sites of Asia at Jeerango, and the Ashokan Rock edict at Jaugada are international tourist sites. But without an airport it is a logistics nightmare for international tourists to come to the sites.

One major shock for the people of Ganjam was the non-selection of Brahmapur as an IIM site. Starting from its days in the Madras Presidency, to its contribution to the national freedom struggle to the present-day emergence as a major business district in the national economic corridor, Brahmapur and the larger district of Ganjam deserve better treatment. The contiguous geographies of southern Odisha and northern Andhra is cobbled together by Ganjam district. It would not be an exaggeration to assert that the Odia diaspora, across the world, cutting across skill levels (white collar or blue collar) would count the highest from Ganjam. The remittances to Ganjam is one of the highest in the state and the entire eastern region.

source: Biswajit Sahani

But there is no facility for a smooth homecoming for our diaspora. Air travel to Odisha/AP (Bhubaneswar/Vizag) and then road or rail travel to Ganjam is a nightmare. There is enough demand and economic preparedness in prospective customers to make airlines feasible, if they ply from Delhi or Mumbai to Brahmapur.

The famed hard-working people of Ganjam district need expanding their businesses. The silk saree business is in a slump, the SEZ needs more investments, the modern port wants aggressive partnerships, the tourism industry is hungry for longer stay durations of international travellers and the son of the soil, the non-resident Odia is longing to visit home and invest in his or her people and resources.

The single most important factor that can catapult the State of Odisha to be one of the major contributors to national growth is air linkage to Brahmapur. The impact of this infrastructural support will not only benefit Odisha but AP too. In these times, one cannot and should not confine socio-economic development to a geography. It is seamless.

The citizens of Ganjam would be glad to participate in any kind of feasibility study or DPR to get the airport up and running at Brahmapur, as soon as possible. It will change the face of development in our lifetimes.

Article by,

Charudutta Panigrahi,

Author & Futurist

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