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Pakyong Airport, India

Construction of Pakyong Airport, at high altitude on a steep mountainside, was delayed by the challenging terrain and protests by residents demanding fair compensation for loss of their homes and farmland, which continued after inauguration of the project


Construction of Pakyong Airport, one of the highest in India at an altitude of 1,433 meters above sea level and perched 2 kilometres above Pakyong village, was scheduled for completion by December 2014.[1] But as early as January 2013 it was reported that the challenging terrain might delay the project. The pace of construction was also slowed down by residents living in the vicinity of the project expressing grievances over negligence. More than ten families complained that construction work had led to large cracks appearing in their houses and the monsoon had sent debris flowing downwards from the site, causing havoc and ruining vegetation. Yet construction firm Punj Lloyd informed the media that if the project progressed as planned it would be complete by 2014.[2] UK based geotechnical firm Maccaferri had been awarded the contract to carve the airport site out from the steeply sloped mountainside using ‘cut and fill’ techniques, moving earth from one place to another to create a level surface. One of the tallest reinforcement walls in the world, 80 meters high, was under construction to protect the airport from landslides.[1]

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Pakyong Airport, India
State or province:Sikkim
Location of conflict:Pakyong
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Ports and airport projects
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Land
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Pakyong Airport, the only airport in the state of Sikkim, was built for passenger flights and defence purposes. Levelling the site for construction works involved carving a stretch of land 2.5 kilometers in length out from the steep mountainside.[5] The foundation stone was laid in February 2009 by then Civil Aviation Minister, Praful Patel.[3] Initially the airport site covered 81 hectares.[1] During construction the land area increased to 400 hectares.[6] Pakyong Airport’s terminal can accommodate 100 passengers and the single runway is 1,700 meters in length.[14] Between 2008, when construction of Pakyong Airport began, and its inauguration in September 2018, the cost of the project escalated from USD 35.7 million to USD 85 million.

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Project area:400
Level of Investment for the conflictive project85,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:800 households [3]
Start of the conflict:05/01/2013
Company names or state enterprises:Maccaferri from United Kingdom - Awarded contract to carve out airport site from mountainside
Punj Lloyd from India - Construction of Pakyong Airport including boundary wall 80 meters in height
Airports Authority of India (AAI) from India
Geo Spar Infra from India - Construction work on western flank of Pakyong Airport
Relevant government actors:Government of India
Sikkim State Government
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Pakyong Airport Affected Families Committee
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local government/political parties
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Development of a network/collective action
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Refusal of compensation
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Global warming, Noise pollution, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Food insecurity (crop damage), Air pollution, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Other Environmental impacts
Potential: Soil erosion
Other Environmental impactsLandslides
Dusty atmosphere, air pollution and noise pollution caused by construction works
Reduced access to drinking water
Health ImpactsVisible: Other Health impacts, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Potential: Accidents
Other Health impactsIllnesses caused by pollutants emitted by aircraft
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts
Potential: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
Other socio-economic impactsDamage to houses (cracks) and destruction of houses caused by construction works
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
New legislation
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:After Pakyong Airport became operational in September 2018 a number of residents impacted by construction were still protesting, blocking further work on the site and demanding fair compensation.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[3] Began Lepcha, Development Induced Displacement in Sikkim: A Study of Greenfield Airport Pakyong Teesta V Hydel Power Projects, Sikkim University, February 2018
[click to view]

[1] Sikkim to get greenfield airport in 2014 12 September 2013,,
[click to view]

[2] India’s greenfield Airport, a distant dream or unending trouble .., Sikkim News, 5 January 2013
[click to view]

[4] Airport Impasse : Affected families pitches their protest runway, Voice of Sikkim, 10 January 2015
[click to view]

[5] Won’t Greenfield Airport be a fairy tale ?, Voice of Sikkim, 21 January 2015
[click to view]

[6] Work on N-E's first greenfield airport comes to a halt, Business Standard, 30 January 2015
[click to view]

[7] School collapses near Pakyong Greenfield Airport, The Echo Of India, 9 April 2015
[click to view]

[8] Affected families threaten to stir strong protest with black flag at Pakyong Airport, Voice of Sikkim, 11 November 2018
[click to view]

[9] Sikkim: Pakyong Airport ready for operation; likely to be inaugurated on Nov 30, TNY thenortheasttoday, 2 November 2017
[click to view]

[10] Locals step up protests ahead of Pakyong airport inauguration. Sikkim Express, 30 November 2017
[click to view]

[11] Farmers who lost land for Sikkim airport begin agitation, opposition lends support, Hindustan Times, 13 November 2018
[click to view]

[12] Airport Affected Families Serves 5 Days Ultimatum To Govt Over Property Compensation, Voice of Sikkim, 24 November 2018
[click to view]

[13] State's Failure to Compensate Landowners Has Put Sikkim Airport on Brink of Closure. THE WIRE, 24 January 2019
[click to view]

[14] Sikkim’s first airport at Pakyong is open for business, International AirportReview, 28 September 2018
[click to view]

[15] Flying direct to Sikkim? Factor in a 5-hour drive from Bagdogra!, The Telegraph, 15 January 2019
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Sikkim: Families affected by Pakyong Airport block road leading to the newly-constructed airport, East Mojo, 24 November 2018
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Rose Bridger, Stay Grounded, email: [email protected]
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:3954
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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