Kushinagar intl airport set to woo foreign tourists

Written by Deepa Jainani | Lucknow | Updated: May 31 2009, 05:11am hrs
Decks have been cleared for the Uttar Pradesh government's highly ambitious Rs 650-crore greenfield Kushinagar international airport and integrated development of the Buddhist circuit under public-private partnership (PPP) on a design-build-finance-operate-transfer (DBFOT) basis.

The Uttar Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (UPTDC) has prepared a project definition report, which will now be modified into a detailed project report and sent to the Centre for approval. Initially, the range of aircraft that are being targeted for Kushinagar are Airbus 320 and Boeing 737.

The circuit is a big draw among Buddhist pilgrims, particularly from East Asia, South-East-Asia and South Asia; yet tourism prospects in the area suffer due to lack of infrastructure facilities. As a result, an international airport at Kushinagar is deemed necessary to cater to the traffic originating from Japan, China, Taiwan, Myanmar, South

Korea, Bhutan, Singapore, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Nepal. Apart from boosting tourism in the area, the airport is expected to help focus on building the crumbling infrastructure of the Buddhist circuit and augment development of this remote eastern part of the state, which is generally known for its backwardness.

Avneesh Awasthi, MD of UPTDC, seemed upbeat a after his aerial survey of the site with the consultant of the project, IL&FS. "An international airport at Kushinagar was proposed looking at the strong tourism potential--especially from foreign countries-of the region.

Last year, 41,000 foreign tourists visited Kushinagar. We propose to take that figure to 2 lakh per annum. For that IL&FC has proposed that apart from developing the airport, the bidders will have to agree to develop the associated infrastructural facilities in the area," he said.

The airport will be a boon to the extremely large number of tourists coming from countries like Japan, China, Taiwan, Myanmar, South Korea, Thailand and Sri Lanka. "The focus of the project is the overall development of the area and providing world-class facilities to our international tourists-ferrying them from the airport to the tourist places around the area that include Sarnath, Sravasti, Kapilvastu, Kaushambi, Sankisa and Kushinagar. For this, the Corporation is planning a high-speed road between Kushinagar to Gorakhpur, which is a distance of about 51 km," Awasthi said.

Once the airport comes up, it would also cater to the heavy Middle East traffic to Gorakhpur, which is known as the gateway to the east. "The airport will open up a huge potential of jobs," he said, adding that the Corporation would be inviting bids from private companies in June. "We would be looking for potential investors from these countries too," he said.

At present, there is an airstrip of UP Civil Aviation at Kasia, 5 km from Kushinagar and the total land area available at the site is about 50 hectares.