Hopes soar for airport at Kushinagar

After a string of false starts, there is some good news for those keen to fly to Kushinagar — an important destination in the Buddhist tourist circuit— in the near future.

Hopes for development of an international airport in Kushinagar have revived as the state government has received offers from 15 firms in the first round of bidding done for the selection of a developer.

The technical bids of the these companies are being evaluated by the project consultant, IL&FS Infrastructure. Those qualified would be invited to submit financial bids.

The state government had invited Request for Qualification (RFQ) for the project in January. It had fixed February 21 as the last date for submission of bids.

Among the 15 companies that submitted offers include Cochin International Airport Limited, Gammon Infrastructure Projects Limited, Reliance Infrastructure Limited and GMR Infrastructure amongst others.

Interestingly, when the tender for the project was first floated in 2008, GMR along with GVK, L&T and Gammon India had shown interest. But later these companies did not turn up, reportedly on account of "non-viability" of the project.

According to an official statement, it would be one of the first greenfield airport projects in the country in which the Department of Economic Affairs of the Centre has given in-principle approval for viability gap funding. Against the project cost of Rs 354 crore, the viability gap funding of 40 per cent (Rs 140 crore approximately) has been approved by the Centre and the state.

The state government has received all statutory clearances regarding the project, including those from the Ministry of Environment and Forests, and in-principle approval from the steering committee of the Ministry of Civil Aviation.

The project has to be built on public-private partnership mode on a Design Build Finance Operate and Transfer (DBFOT) basis. The state government claims that all required land for the project has been acquired, fenced and is in its possession. It is the first attempt in the current SP government to develop a project which had earlier received poor response in the Mayawati regime.

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