Chitrakoot's tabletop airport adds another chapter to UP's massive aviation drive

The Chitrakoot airport would also be a big boost for religious tourism, given that Chitrakoot is a place connected with Lord Ram

Chitrakoot's tabletop airport adds another chapter to UP's massive aviation drive
Representative image. Source: Unsplash

Air connectivity in Uttar Pradesh is on the fast track. After initiating construction of Jewar, Ayodhya and Sonbhadra airports, and taking steps for the facelift, upgrade and expansion of Bareilly, Lucknow, Kanpur and Kushinagar airports, the Yogi Adityanath government has decided to accelerate the expansion of the airstrip and construction of an airport terminal at Chitrakoot. 

The Chitrakoot airport would be situated amid the Vindhyachal range along the border between Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh and is proposed to have a tabletop runway, according to a Times of India report. A tabletop runway is located on top of a plateau or hillock with one of both ends adjacent to a steep precipice that drops into a deep valley. These runways create an optical illusion of being at the same level as the plains below and are a real challenge for pilots. However, surrounded by mountains, Chitrakoot would be one of the most scenic airports in the country.  

The Chitrakoot airport is expected to play a big role in the development of the Bundelkhand region. This is a project that has been high on the agenda of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, and Chitrakoot was made into one of the six nodes of the defence corridor and the 296-km-long Bundelkhand Expressway originated from Chitrakoot. The airport is seen as an important cog in the wheel as far as this project is concerned. 

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The Chitrakoot airport would also be a big boost for religious tourism, given that Chitrakoot is a place where Lord Ram is believed to have spent some time during his 14-year exile. 

The airport is to be built on approximately 260 acres of land and would be expanded with a runway that would be 1.475-km long and 23-metre wide, according to a government spokesperson, who added that work on the new terminal building, apron, air traffic controller and car parking is going on in full swing. The government has already issued Rs 50 crore out of the Rs 92 crore allocated for the project. This is in line with Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's directive that no development project should be affected by the paucity of funds. 

The Chitrakoot airport is also expected to give a fillip to the Centre's Regional Connectivity Scheme -- Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik (RCS-UDAN). There are plans to connect Prayagraj and Kanpur with Chitrakoot under the RCS, the TOI report said. 

“The state government has already made airports in Prayagraj, Kanpur, Hindon and Bareilly operational, while the ones in Azamgarh, Aligarh, Chitrakoot, Moradabad, Sonbhadra, Shravasti, Ayodhya, Kushinagar and Saharanpur (Sarsawan) are under construction and will be operational soon," said Uttar Pradesh Civil Aviation Secretary Surendra Singh. He added that flights are planned to start from Bareilly and Pantnagar to Prayagraj, and there are also plans to develop the airports in Meerut, Jhansi and Ghazipur. 

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The Jewar airport that is under construction in Greater Noida is the centrepiece of Uttar Pradesh and India's airport development projects. It has been envisaged as India's largest airport and would have five runways when fully complete, bringing it at par with global airports like Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport and George Bush Intercontinental Airport in the US and Shanghai Pudong International Airport in China. The Jewar airport is being built to handle 70 million passengers by 2050 and significantly bring down the load on Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA). It is being developed by Zurich Airport International. 

The Lucknow airport, which was handed over to the Adani group in November 2020 for a lease period of 50 years, is getting a swanky new terminal that would be able to cater to 10 million passengers annually and is likely to be in place by December 2021, according to a TOI report in September 2020. The Rs 1,383-crore has been designed to handle passenger growth till 2031. 

The Centre and state governments had also come together to expedite the construction of the Sonbhadra airport under RCS, according to another TOI report in November 2020. 

Then in March 2019, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the Airports Authority of India (AAI) and the Uttar Pradesh government for the development and operationalisation of the Kushinagar airport, according to a report in the Financial Express. The Union Cabinet had also approved the airport being upgraded into an international airport. Kushinagar is a notable Buddhist cultural site and is located close to several other well-known Buddhist sites like Lumbini, Kapilvastu and Sravasti, and so, an international airport at Kushinagar would markedly aid religious tourism in the region. 

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The Union ministry of civil aviation (MoCA) had assured the Uttar Pradesh government that it would provide the licence to operationalise an aerodrome of the newly-constructed Kushinagar airport, according to a TOI report. Steps were also being taken to get domestic market leader IndiGo and national carrier Air India's regional arm Alliance Air to fly from Bareilly, where a new terminal has been built. 

As far as the Kanpur airport is concerned, a new civil enclave is expected to be ready by January 2022, according to a TOI report. This would result in the airport being able to handle 40% more passengers annually than it does now. It would also be able to handle 12-16 flights a day, including international flights, as compared to only two flights a day at present. It would provide easy connectivity to a host of tourist spots like Bithoor, Sankissa, Etawah Safari Park, Jhansi-Orchha, Kalinjar Fort, Kalpi, National Chambal Sanctuary and Kannauj.     

The state had also approached the Centre seeking air connectivity between Prayagraj and Hindon (Ghaziabad), and resumption of flights from the Kanpur airport. In the state, at present seven airports were functional catering to 64 destinations. Besides, the state government is developing 12 new airports.

Aviation Connectivity and Infrastructure Developers Private Limited or Air Taxi had won Kanpur-Chitrakoot, Kanpur-Moradabad, Kanpur-Aligarh, Chitrakoot-Prayagraj, Chitrakoot-Varanasi, Kanpur-Shravasti, Shravasti-Varanasi and Shravasti-Prayagraj routes under UDAN 4.0, according to a CNBC TV18 report. The primary fleet of Air Taxi comprises the tiny, four-seater Tecnam P2006T aircraft.