Sikkim to get its first airport at Pakyong

Pakyong in Sikkim is all set to get the first of the three Greenfield airports to be constructed in the Northeastern Region.

The plan set off with the Airports Authority of India (AAI) recently calling for bids to construct the runway, apron, taxiways, pavement, drainage works, fencing, and boundary wall works for the airport. AAI plans to finish the construction work within 24 months from the date of awarding the contract.

To be constructed at a cost of around Rs 320 crore, the proposed airport would initially cater to smaller turboprop aircraft like the ATR 72s and would give Sikkim its first airport. Presently, the nearest airport to Sikkim is located 124 kilometres away at Bagdogra in West Bengal.

While the Planning Commission is learnt to have proposed the sharing of cost on a 1:1 basis between the gross budgetary support of the Civil Aviation and AAI's resources, the Airports Authority has proposed that the funding should come either through a 100 per cent Central grant or a 90 per cent grant with the remaining 10 per cent through internal resource generation. "For this project, we are seeking around Rs 270 crore as grant from the Planning Commission," a senior AAI official said.

The estimated cost of constructing the airport has fluctuated many a times in the last few months. While initial estimates pegged the cost at Rs 340 crore, others suggested a figure close to Rs 300 crore.

The Sikkim government has been allocated Rs 100 crore by the 12th Finance Commission for developing the airport. The fact that the allocation would lapse by April 2008, if the money is not used by then, is also weighing heavy on the state government, which has already provided land for the project.

Official data shows that between 2004 and 2007, aircraft movement in Northeastern Region has grown by 23.4 per cent while the passenger traffic has increased by over 40 per cent. Given this kind of growth, the Civil Aviation Ministry is now keen to expedite the setting up of aviation infrastructure in the region.

The other two Greenfield airports are expected to come up at Cheithu in Kohima and Banderdewa in Itanagar.

While the Banderdewa site has been found to be technically feasible by the AAI, officials said the Techno Economic Feasibility study for Cheithu is currently being examined.

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