Almost five years after its launch, the ambitious Kushinagar Airport project in Uttar Pradesh is finally on the verge of taking off. The long-awaited airport project in eastern Uttar Pradesh, which is expected to cater not only to the heavy Buddhist traffic originating from South East Asian countries but also give a fillip to the most backward region of the state, is finally looking set to be rolled out.
The project, which is integral for the integrated development of the entire Buddhist circuit, is to be built under the public-private partnership (PPP) mode on a design-build-finance-operate-transfer (DBFOT) basis.
The R354-crore prestigious project at Kushinagar, which is one of the four most important pilgrimage sites of Lord Buddha, is one of the first greenfield airport project to get the approval for Viability Gap Funding from the department of economic affairs, the finance ministry and the Centre. The VGF approval granted is R70.93 crores (20% of the project cost) while an additional support of up to 20% is expected from the state government.
Heavy enthusiasm amongst the eight bidders who have been issued RFP documents — Gammon, GMR, SREI, Essel Infra, Supreme Infrastructure, GKC, GR Infra and Transtroy — before the final bids are placed on August 30, shows that development in Uttar Pradesh will no longer remain alien in the political lexicon of the state, what with chief minister Akhilesh Yadav repeatedly stating that development alone will be the barometer for deciding the winner at the forthcoming hustings.
The project, which was first mooted by the Mayawati government in 2008, before being abandoned by developers for being ‘unviable’, was taken up by the Akhilesh Yadav government soon after it came to power last year. And after years of perseverence, the project is within kissing distance of being awarded.
The Kushinagar airport is one of the 17 new airports proposed for construction during the 12th Five-Year Plan and would provide a lifeline to lakhs of workers seeking emigration from UP every year.
In fact, the ministry of Indian overseas affairs’ Annual Report 2012-13 indicates that UP is number one in terms of emigrants. While the common perception is that Kerala sends the largest workforce abroad, fact is that UP has granted emigration clearance to as many as 191,341 people in 2012, Kerala, which comes second after UP, has sent 98,178 only while Andhra Pradesh has sent 92,803 and Bihar has sent 84,078 workers.