Wednesday, October 20, 2021

UP: PM Modi inaugurates Kushinagar International Airport

Kushinagar: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday inaugurated the Kushinagar International Airport, taking the number of airports handling scheduled passenger flights in Uttar Pradesh to nine— up from four in 2017.

A charter from Colombo was the first flight to land in Kushinagar with over 100 Buddhist monks and dignitaries.

Union civil aviation minister J M Scindia said Kushinagar will have direct flights to Delhi four times weekly from November 26 and then Mumbai and Kolkata will also get direct flights to this city from December 18.

The Rs 260-crore Kushinagar International Airport will facilitate pilgrimage to Lord Buddha's mahaparinirvana sthal of Lord Buddha, thereby boosting the economy of the region. Under regional connectivity scheme UDAN, SpiceJet and Truejet have been awarded flights to connect Kushinagar with Lucknow, Kanpur, Varanasi, Prayagraj, Gaya, Bareilly, Saharanpur and Hindon (near Delhi).

In 2017, the four airports in UP handling scheduled flights were — Lucknow, Varanasi, Gorakhpur and Agra. In addition to them, now Prayagraj, Kanpur, Hindon and Bareilly also see regular flights.

The upcoming Noida Airport and Maryada Puroshottam Shri Ram Airport in Ayodhya will be international airport, taking the number of airports in UP getting flight from abroad to five — up from current three that include Lucknow, Varanasi and Kushinagar.

A senior UP government official said work is currently at airports in 10 more cities — Aligarh, Azamgarh, Moradabad, Shravasti, Chitrakoot, Sonbhadra, Agra, Saharanpur, Noida and Ayodhya.

“Of these, 95% work has been completed at Aligarh, Azamgarh, Moradabad, Shravasti and Chitrakoot,” he said. The state is developing an airstrip in Lalitpur, Bundelkhand, as an airport now.

The Kushinagar airport was conceived in 2008 and the UP government acquired 590 acres of land for this greenfield project. In 2019, the state government and Airports Authority of India (AAI) entered into an agreement to develop and operationalise this airport.

It was declared an international airport last June. AAI has built a new terminal that can handle 300 passengers in a hour and a 3.2-km-long runway along with other associated infra like taxiways and apron.

AAI is awaiting 35 acres of land for setting up instrument landing system infra at Kushinagar Airport. The UP government is working on acquiring the same. Two other key issues are yet to be resolved by the state — completing the approach road to connect the terminal with NH 28, with AAI sending a reminder this August. And drainage work outside the airport is yet to be completed.

The delegation on the inaugural flight to Kushinagar on Wednesday comprised of anunayakas (deputy heads) of all four nikatas (orders) of Buddhism in Sri Lanka — Asgiriya, Amarapura, Ramanya and Malwatta — apart from five Sri Lankan ministers led by cabinet minister Namal Rajapakshe. A 12-member “Holy Relic entourage” brought Buddha relics for exposition.

20/10/21 Saurabh Sinha/Times of India

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