Pakyong (Sikkim): Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday inaugurated the first ever aerodrome of Sikkim at Paykong.
PM Modi was accompanied by Chief Minister Pawan Chamling and Union Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu as he unveiled the plaque, formally inaugurating the aero facility.
"Work is progressing at high pace to strengthen both, infrastructural and emotional connectivity to Sikkim and the Northeast. I've been here myself to check the development work in Northeast and Union Ministers regularly visit the region," PM Modi said.
Sikkim's dream of having an airport came true nine years after a foundation stone for it was laid in 2009. With Sikkim perceived as one of the major tourist destinations, the airport is expected to provide a much-needed impetus to the tourism industry in the state.
The first commercial flight from Pakyong would begin from October 4.
Located 33 kilometres off the state capital Gangtok, it will circumvent the need for a five-hour journey through mountainous roads and is expected to ease off the air traffic congestion at West Bengal's Bagdogra. Strategically, the airport holds relevance as it's 60 kilometres from the India-China border. It will also provide the Indian Air force (IAF) with a convenient landing and takeoff facility.
Pakyong airport is the 100th airport of the country. Located on the top of a hill about 2 km above Pakyong village at 4,500 feet above sea level, the airport is spread over 201 acres. Built at an estimated cost of over Rs 605 crores, the Airport is another feature added to the profile of Sikkim, which has, in the last three to four years, achieved the distinction of becoming the first "Organic State" and also the first "Open Defecation Free" (ODF) state of India.
Nagaland Chief Minister, Neiphiu Rio, congratulated the Prime Minister for "taking effective measures to bridge the gap between the NorthEast and rest of India".
"The inauguration of Sikkim's first-ever commercial Airport at Pakyong in spite of geographic challenges is all set to mark a new beginning," he wrote in a tweet.
The airport is an example of one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's pet projects- the UDAN. The programme, started in 2016, is a regional airport development and "Regional Connectivity Scheme" for the common citizen of the country. The UDAN aims to make air travel affordable and widespread, boosting the economy and infrastructural development of otherwise neglected regions of India.
(With inputs from Agencies)...