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This is how Modi govt plans to make flying to Northeast a smoother & impressive experience

From indoor rainforest and mini-city within airport and huge improvement in infrastructure, AAI is working to give airports in Manipur, Tripura, Assam a complete face-lift by 2023.

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New Delhi: Swanky new terminal buildings equipped with state-of-the-art facilities, travelators, aerobridges and the likes — these are the facilities passengers travelling through airports at Manipur, Tripura, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh can expect by 2022-2023 once the Modi government’s ambitious airport modernisation project is completed.

As part of the government’s thrust on developing infrastructure in the Northeast, the four airports were selected for a facelift. Officials at the Airports Authority of India (AAI) said the move was mainly necessitated by the increase in demand at these airports, many of which were catering above their capacity.

For instance, the Guwahati’s Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport in Assam was built to accommodate three million passengers per annum, but had a footfall of about six million passengers between 2019 and 2020. It’s a similar situation for airports in Agartala, Imphal and Silchar, AAI officials told ThePrint.

On 8 March, over 20,600 passengers traveled through northeast India airports on 178 flights.

“With an increase in passenger flow — larger aircraft are being operated, flight frequency has increased and revenue dynamics have shifted. Factors such as these are considered when making the decision for expansion projects, greenfield airports and revamping of existing infrastructure. Some of these projects have been taken up by private players in the region,” M. Suresh, regional executive director, AAI, Northeastern headquarters, told ThePrint.

Also read: Northeast has potential to become India’s growth engine, says PM Modi

Mini city inside airport, indoor rainforest & more

As a part of the facelift, Guwahati’s international airport will get a new integrated terminal building and ancillary, equipped with “state-of-the-art” facilities such as a mini city within the airport, aerobridges, an indoor rainforest, solar power electricity units as well as a crafts village that will showcase the culture of the region, Suresh said.

Spanning 1,02,500 square metre, the new terminal will have a peak hour capacity of 4,500 passengers — a five-fold increase from its current 800 passengers — 64 check-in counters, 20 self-check-in kiosks, four counters each for immigration and emigration and six baggage belts. Estimated to cost Rs 1,142 crore, the project, which was delayed by a year due to Covid-19, is expected to be operational by March 2022, the AAI official added.

“The Guwahati airport will be handed over to Adani by July 2021. Capacity will increase from 3 million to 12-14 million passengers per year. Runways will be expanded, parking bays and multi-level car parking will also be introduced,” J.T. Radhakrishan, GM (engineering) Project, Guwahati told ThePrint.

In Tripura, the new integrated terminal building at Agartala’s Maharaja Bir Bikram Airport will also be commissioned for passengers by June-end. The facility, built at a cost of Rs  438 crore, will have a peak hour capacity of 1,500 passengers.

“It will first be opened to the domestic market and then international travel will be introduced. Entirely dependent on solar energy, it will ensure a smooth flow of passenger movement with international brands of food and beverages and retail outlets,” Rajeev Kapoor, airport director at Maharaja Bir Bikram Airport told ThePrint.

The tender for the construction of a new terminal building at Bir Tikendrajit International Airport in Imphal, Manipur, is underway and will commence in the next financial year. It is expected to cost about Rs 725 crore.

AAI’s Suresh said the revamp will not result in an increase in price for all services provided at the airports.

Also read: These are top 5 Indian airports where the most amount of smuggled gold was seized in 2019-20

New greenfield airports, expanding current terminals

Several greenfield airports, which are those built on undeveloped land, are also scheduled to come up in the region.

Assam’s Rupsi Airport, costing Rs 69 crore, is complete and ready for operations. “This is located in Dhubri district and shares land with Kokrajhar, which will cater to the Bodoland area and adjoining districts of Bangladesh and Bhutan as well,” M. Suresh said.

The facility in Arunachal Pradesh’s Hollongi — the state’s first airport capable of handling an Airbus 320 — will be ready by November 2022. Spanning 4,100 square metre, it is expected to be capable of handling A-320 type aircraft and will cost Rs 1,092 crore. Meanwhile, sites for Silchar’s GreenField airport have been identified and are expected to be finalised.

Other minor projects of the AAI include an extension of existing terminal buildings in Silchar and Imphal, and expanding runways, hangars and ATC buildings at airports in Dimapur, Shillong, Dibrugarh, Tezu and Silchar.

Kapil Kaul, CAPA — Centre for Aviation, CEO, South Asia — said, “Before ensuring connectivity is developed, it is important to ensure that infrastructure is there. UDAN flights, Pawan Hans — all need to come together to help the Northeast’s aviation sector.”

The Sydney-based CAPA has market intelligence on the aviation and travel industry.

Mark Martin, CEO of Martin Consultancy, a Dubai-based aviation firm, told ThePrint that developing airport infrastructure will bolster economic growth in the region.

“The first thing that aviation can do is create jobs. With primarily hilly terrain, dependence on rail or road transport is minimal. We need more than one Guwahati (international airport) to ensure that connectivity is created,” he said.

(Edited by Manasa Mohan)

Also read: Navi Mumbai airport, hit by lockdown & funds crisis, could be ready with one runway in 2023


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