The hill state of Uttarakhand is set to get its maiden international airport under the guidance of Shri Satpal Maharaj, Cabinet Minister for Tourism, Culture and Irrigation, Government of Uttarakhand, who is playing an important role in conceptualizing the move to boost the economy.
“The international airport in Uttarakhand is necessary to increase the ease of travellers from abroad. The state received over one lakh foreign tourists in 2014 and 219 lakh for domestic tourists. The numbers have increased steadily before COVID-19 hit us. International travellers now have to deboard at the international airports at New Delhi and travel for hours on roads or take another flight or train to reach Uttarakhand. The airport will help yoga enthusiasts, nature, and adventure lovers from all over the world to come here without hassle. The airport will also provide a safe and comfortable passage to people from abroad seeking to explore the Indian traditional medicine, Ayurveda, centred in and around places like Haridwar and Rishikesh. Hon’ble Union Minister for Civil Aviation (I/C), Shri Hardeep Singh Puri has extended his support for the airport and has kindly agreed to bear the expenses. We are also grateful to the Hon’ble Chief Minister Shri Tirath Singh Rawat for issuing prompt orders to look for the land parcel. We wish to start the chopper service for Char Dham from the same airport so that pilgrims need not travel by road as they do now. Once the airport is operational, I am hopeful that international passengers can come to Uttarakhand directly with low budget flight from London. It will also boost industry and employment generation in Uttarakhand as the airport will ease business travel and will facilitate interested companies to set up their factories here, like Taiwan who wishes to set up a microchip factory,” says Shri Satpal Maharaj, Cabinet Minister for Tourism, Culture and Irrigation, Government of Uttarakhand.
The process of looking for a site sized (amount of land needed) for the airport is underway as the runways of the existing airports in Uttarakhand are not suitable for bigger aircrafts. The runway of Dehradun airport is 2,140 metres and not suitable for aircrafts such as A380 or Boeing 777, used for long-haul international flights that are wide-bodied and carry substantial amounts of fuel. The length of an ideal runway for such aircrafts to take-off is over 4,000 metres while the landing requirements are 3,000 metres or more. However, official estimates show that the Jolly Grant airport can be extended by no more than 625 metres as it is surrounded by mountains, flanked by Song river on one end towards Rishikesh and Dehradun-Haridwar highway on the other.
“We get a lot of visitors from Vancouver, Los Angeles, New York, London, and Rio de Janeiro interested in spiritual tourism; once the airport is in place, people from Vancouver can come to Uttarakhand directly and get easy helicopter service for pilgrimage to Hemkund Sahib and Meetha-Reetha Sahib. It will also help a large number of interested travellers from South America who are attracted by the spiritual leaders from abroad settled here. Thanks to our Prime Minister’s efforts to promote Indian culture and heritage across the world, more non-resident Indians (NRIs) and persons of Indian origin (PIOs) from countries like Mauritius, Fiji and Trinidad want to come to Haridwar to immerse the last remains of their family members – the airport will be beneficial to them. With the airport, we can plan for dedicated Himalayan flights, Yoga flights, and Char Dham flights. It will also open new avenues for tourism including Panch Prayag, Panch Badri, and Panch Kedar. We are open to suggestions from people for the international airport,” says Shri Maharaj.