Final briefing on preparations for Pakyong Airport inauguration

Gangtok, 22 Sept (IPR): Chief Secretary, Shri A.K. Shrivastava, convened a press meet today to brief about the final preparations for the inauguration of Pakyong Airport by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi. He informed that the Prime Minister will reach Gangtok on 23rd September evening and will inaugurate Pakyong Greenfield Airport on 24th September. After the inauguration, the Prime Minister will address a public meeting at St. Xavier’s School ground.

The Prime Minister will be accompanied by Union Minister for Civil Aviation, Shri Suresh Prabhu, Union Minister of State (I/C) DoNER, Dr. Jitendra Singh, and Union Minister of State (Elec & IT), Shri S.S. Ahluwalia, among host of other dignitaries.

The inauguration programme will have the august presence of Governor Shri Ganga Prasad and Chief Minister Shri Pawan Chamling.

Chief Secretary Shri A.K. Shrivastava while addressing the press meet gave technical details about the airport. He informed that the airport has been built in a total area of 201 acres at an altitude of 4500ft at an estimated cost Rs.605 crores. The length of the runway is 1700 meters (1. 7 kms), while the width is 30 meters. The terminal building is in the area of 3000 squar meters with a capacity of 100 passengers (50 incoming and 50 outgoing).

While expressing joy at the successful completion of the airport, he said that it is going to be 100th operational airport in the country. He further informed that the total amount disbursed towards compensation was Rs.64.64 crore, and claims for additional amounts being made will be looked into by the Claims Commissioner (Principal Secretary, Law Department), Government of Sikkim appointed on 9th August, 2018.

The Chief Secretary further informed that the Green Field Airport was conceived in the year 2000 when Chief Minister Shri Pawan Chamling approached the then Chairman of Finance Commission and State Government was given a token sum. Another token sum was given by the next Finance Commission. This paved the way for exploration of a construction agency, he informed.

Ultimately the then Planning Commission agreed to fund the project as a Central sector activity. When developments appeared positive, foundation stone of Airport was laid in February 2002. Acquisition of land was gradually taken up and an MoU was signed with AAI for construction of airport on March 2002.

He further informed that the actual proposed date of completion of airport was fixed at 2012. Negotiations continued between AAI and the concerned departments, Roads & Bridges initially and Transport later. For want of decision in respect of funds no headway could be made. The initial estimate of RS.309.46 crores was approved. The Bhumi Pujan of the airport was done in February 2009 and the construction was initiated by MIS Punj L1yod, a reputed Construction Agency in April-May 2009.

Despite the best efforts of AAI and the contractors, the airport took much more time than expected. It included the whole of 2014 when no construction took place. As it happens in such mega projects, both cost and time over run took place. The total estimate reached the figures of Rs.605.59 crores and the expected time of completion of project was fixed at February-March 2018. The first trial run by an Air force Dornier plane took place on 5th March 2018 while the first trial run by a commercial plane (Spice Jet) took place on 10th March 2018. It will be significant to note that Spice Jet has won the bid for this airport under the UDAN scheme of Ministry of Civil Aviation and that they will start the first flight from Kolkata to Pakyong on 4th October 2018. In near future, flights from Guwahati and Delhi are also expected. The aircraft will be BOMBARDIER 400 having a capacity of 78 persons.

In conclusion, Chief Secretary Shri A.K. Shrivastava stated that the journey has been long (18 years) but it is a satisfying one at the end. The airport will further boost tourism and industrial development in Sikkim.

Subsequently, Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation, Government of India, Shri R.N. Choubey, who is in the State to oversee the preparations and the final programme, also interacted with the media and shared technical details about the airport and the ensuing inauguration programme.

He stated that it is a proud moment for the country and Sikkim particularly that this modern airport has seen completion and will be inaugurated on Monday. Speaking about the journey of the project, he shared that it was initiatially a difficult proposition because of the terrain, and it was an engineering challenge to convert a hill into a flat land. He shared that one side of the hill was excavated and the other side of the land was filled with the same materials. The hill cutting and land filling was done for a long stretch of 2 kms.

He further informed that the run way is roughly about 1700 mts long, and can handle an 80-seater aircraft. The aircraft pilots have been specifically trained for take-off and landing procedures in these conditions.

He further added that eco-friendly methods and technology like Geo-Grid was used to build the Airport. He asserted that all the safety norms have been followed and that the Airport poses no danger whatsoever to residents of nearby areas. He said that the outer wall of the Airport is an engineering marvel as it is the highest man made vertical wall in the country.

Shri Choubey recalled the demand made by Chief Minister of Sikkim Shri Pawan Chamling during the visit of the 12th Finance Commission. He shared that the Airport was one of the demands made by the Chief Minister following which the State was granted 200 Crore initially and additional sanctions in the subsequent Finance Commissions.

“I would like to express thanks and gratitude to the Chief Minister and his administration for providing all the support and cooperation in making the Airport a possibility. The Airport has been possible only because of the active interest taken by Chief Minister Shri Chamling,” he stated.

The Secretary added that the Airport will give a huge boost to the tourism prospects of the beautiful State of Sikkim and will aid economic development. Tourists and visitors will save a lot of travelling time and more people would be interested to visit the State, he concluded.

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