Agartala: Tripura’s second airport is all set to come up at Kailashahar under Unokoti district in the northern part of the state, a state minister said on Wednesday.
The airport will connect Agartala, Kolkata, and Guwahati with a daily flight, said Transport Minister Sushanta Chowdhury here.
Chowdhury held a high-level meeting with all all officers concerned of the district and elected representatives, followed by a site visit on Tuesday to finalise the project.
The Ministry of Civil Aviation has agreed to provide the necessary funding for the time-bound execution of the project.
“Once the project proposal is finalised, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) will be signed with the ministry to hand over land for the new airport, and the work will begin in two phases,” Chowdhury stated.
Kailashahar airport had been in operation until 1989, but was abandoned afterwards despite its commercial viability.
In 2018, the Ministry of Civil Aviation included Kailashahar airport under the Regional Connectivity Scheme UDAN, and floated tenders at least five times but didn’t get any response. Recently, Civil Aviation Ministry sources informed the state government that Alliance Air and Spirit Air have agreed to operate 19- and 17-seat small aircraft, respectively, from Kailashahar.
In the first phase, the airport will be renovated with the existing infrastructure, and small aircraft will be operated by the end of the year on kailasahar-kolkata and Kailasahar-Agartala routes, he said.
In the second phase, the runway will be expanded by acquiring 700 metres of land in the northern part of the airport from 22 families, which is a time-consuming affair and also involves huge financial liabilities.
The minister hoped that with the renovation and opening of a new airport at Kailashahar, the tourism industry would get a major boost and employment opportunities would increase.
The minister underlined that about 70 metres of land on the western side of the existing airport will be acquired to build airport authority offices, a car parking zone, and boundary walls.
Chowdhury said, “Under the UDAN regional connectivity scheme, the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation has decided to re-open the airports which have been shut down across the country, to expand air communication services at the regional level”.
Explaining the state government’s interest in re-starting Kailashahar airport, the minister said it was part of the efforts to enhance the cultural and traditional significance of Tripura through the development of different tourist spots. The state tourism Development Corporation has already taken a special initiative and devised a comprehensive plan for the development of Unokoti in Kailashahar, famously known as Angkor Wat of the Northeast.
“The project for beautification and development of Unokoti and reopening and beautification of abandoned Sonamukhi tea plantations has received significant financial support of Rs 140 crores from the Asian Development Bank, making it a promising endeavour in presenting Tripura as a major tourist hotspot in the global arena,” Chowdhury maintained.
A three-star hotel, a big resort, a gymnasium, and a park in the abandoned Sonamukhi tea garden near Unokoti will commence soon, tourism officials said, adding that many such plans have been lined up and work for the same will commence soon in a bid to attract tourists to the uncrowded tourist centres across Tripura.