Agartala: The Airports Authority of India (AAI) is upgrading Agartala airport to international standards by providing world-class facilities, top official said here. The ambitious Rs.426-crore project is expeced to boost the northeast region s connectivity with Southeast Asia. "All preliminary works have been completed.
We will soon engage a project consultant to make Agartala airport world class," AAI chairman R.K. Srivastava told reporters here on Thursday night soon after meeting with Chief Minister Manik Sarkar. "The AAI and the Northeastern Council of India will bear the project cost of Rs.426 crore. The Tripura government has already handed over the required land to us," he added.
The senior official, who arrived here on Thursday evening after visiting Mizoram and Manipur, said that the AAI had already upgraded the Imphal airport to an international status. "After studying viabilities, other abandoned as well as operational airports in the northeastern states will be developed. Currently, there is no major airport-related project in the northeastern region," he added.
Tripura Transport Minister Manik Dey, who was present during AAI s chairman meeting with the chief minister, said that the state government had already provided 72 acres of land to AAI for construction and expansion of the new terminal building, runway and other necessary infrastructure.
"The AAI has been asking us to provide four more acres of land, but there is a huge scarcity of additional land. However, we will provide this land too," Dey told reporters. The minister said that the state government has relocated 157 families to acquire 72 acres. "If we acquire more land, more families will have to be evicted. This is a gigantic problem for us," Dey added. Agartala airport director S.D. Barman said, "The detailed project report for Agartala airport has been submitted to the civil aviation ministry for sanction.
The Tripura government has provided land for the purpose." During his recent meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi, Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar said that dependable air connectivity and development of airports were urgently required to boost connectivity between northeast India and southeast Asia. Having better equipped airports is a pre-condition for introducing international flights to connect destinations in southeast Asia, as envisaged in the "Look-East Policy" of the government, an official quoted the chief minister as telling the prime minister.
The Tripura government has long been demanding operation of flights between northeastern states and adjoining Bangladesh to boost trade, tourism and people-to-people contacts. Currently, Guwahati and Imphal have two international airports in the mountainous northeastern region comprising eight states, including Sikkim. While Guwahati airport is the main airport in northeast India, there are 11 operational airports in the region at Tezpur, Dibrugarh, Jorhat, Lilabari, Silchar (all in Assam), Dimapur, Agartala, Shillong, Lengpui (Aizawl) and Imphal, apart from Bagdogra in the Himalayan foothills in West Bengal.
"Agartala is the second largest city in northeast region in terms of population and air traffic after Guwahati and its demand for international airport is justified by the volumes of business and passengers it handles," said the AAI official. At present, on an average, 10 aircraft operate every day through Agartala airport for Delhi, Kolkata, Guwahati, southern states, Imphal (Manipur) and Silchar in southern Assam. Besides, on an average, 150 to 200 people from neighbouring Bangladesh and northeastern states travel to and fro daily from Agartala.