Built on desert sand dunes makes it unique in Pakistani airports
Pakistan’s very first desert airport Thar Airport—is almost ready. You can land there provided flying a smaller aircraft. It is situated in the middle of Mithi and Islamkot, on a 20-minute drive from either city. The airport can cater to around 50 passengers. Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah anxious to fly to Thar became the very first dignitary to land at the airport which has been built for foreign coal concessioners intending to visit coal blocks in Thar Desert. Thar Airport is comprised of four works such as the runway, taxiway, terminal and residential blocks. All are complete except the terminal on which work will be completed by September 2017, said Khalid Mirza, the CEO of the ECIL—the consultant of the project which has planned and designed the airport. The total cost of the project is Rs.23 million. The project started in 2008 and later the construction of the runway was awarded to Ms. Reliance which could not move ahead because of its shabby performance in the past, officials in Sindh government said. The company is said to have used its political clout for getting the project as it did not have any previous experience in construction of runways. Due to delays, the government decided to change the contractor—the decision which pushed Ms. Reliance to approach the court. The work on the airport was stayed till 2016 and eventually resumed with the new contractor Umer Jan & Company after which the court allowed the project to proceed. Engineer Bux Ali Abro said the airstrip of the airport, constructed by the contractor is 7000 meters long and 300 meters wide with taxiway and apron. It has an overrun of 975 meters. The work on the terminal is in progress on an area of 456 square meters. At least 9 units are complete which include parking area, guest houses, a shed, officers’ accommodation and a mosque etc. All land for future planning has also been acquired. Sharing their experiences Engr. Khalid Mirza and Engr. Bux Ali Abro said it was a new topography for the airport as it is in the midst of sand dunes. Thar has a collapsible soil where the sand dunes move and the sand caves in. Thus, a specific technique used on such soils has been adopted. The ECIL has also worked on other airports including one in Rahim Yar Khan which was constructed by Shaikh Zaid. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will run the airport. The Sindh Coal Authority (SCA) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the CAA for the monitoring of the project too. Pakistan Air Force (PAF) is also likely to use this airport.