The inauguration of Kalaburagi Airport on Friday, by Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa is a much-awaited boost to development of industry, commerce, employment generation and tourism, as well as a boon for attracting huge investments in the Kalyana Karnataka districts.
To the people of the area, it's a real gift. This is the land of opportunities, so far untouched by successive governments, where focus has largely been on the urban centres. Today, airport development has become firmly linked with economic development and in my personal opinion, Kalaburagi district alone can expect upto Rs 10,000 crore in investments by next year, with the addition of airline infrastructure.
After Bengaluru, Mysuru, Mangaluru, Belagavi and Hubbali, Kalaburagi is the latest city to get air connectivity. Earlier, the absence of such a facility in the region could have been one of the reasons why it remained backward, always failing to attract investment and create employment, like many other tier-two areas of Karnataka have done over the years.
The foundation stone for the airport had been laid back in 2008, again, when B.S. Yediyurappa was serving as Chief Minister. This flagged off phase 1 of the Kalaburagi Airport. Built by the Karnataka State Public Works Department, it will be operated by the Airports Authority of India, which is equipped with all the vital and advanced amenities necessary to provide a world-class travel experience.
Once more, I thank Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa and Prime Minister Narendra Modi for realising the dreams of people of this region under the Prime Minister's UDAN scheme. The journey to Kalaburagi was long and tedious, requiring one to fly to Hyderabad and then arrive at Kalaburagi via road. Now, it is only one hour away by flight from Bengaluru. The 3.25 km runway, which has been laid at the airport, is the second longest in the state, after Bengaluru.
With the Kalaburagi airport beginning its operations, the northeast Karnataka region will be connected to Bengaluru and the rest of India under the Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik, Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS). The airline mainly operates flights on UDAN routes and provides services to seven Indian cities like Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad, Tirupati, Hubbali and belagavi, which also propels developments in other cities of Karnataka. Notably, the Kalaburagi Airport will act as a gateway for tourist destinations including Buddha Vihar, Sharana Basaveshwara Temple, Khwaja Banda Nawaz Dargah and Gulbarga Fort.
Apart from this, the inauguration of the airport also helps members of the Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce and Industries and businessmen in and around Kalaburagi, which is a hub for food processing industries like turdal, chillies and millets. Kalaburagi has great potential for development. Like Ballari, it is rich in natural resources - Ballari is famous for its iron ore and Kalaburagi for its limestone. The area holds limestone reserves of about 6,445 tonnes, five industrial areas and nine industrial estates. There are eight cement industries already established in the area, along with stone polishing factories, dal mills, plastic reprocessing, fabrication and sugar industries. It's safe to say that is at the forefront of industrial investment. The area is rich in agricultural produce, with the unique parent basalt rock that is conducive for high-quality tur, which is already grown in abundance. Pulses like red gram and sorghum, sunflower, tamarand, coconut and turmeric are also cultivated, without about half the land being utilised in pulse cultivation. Horticulture includes mango, grapes, banana, sapota, sweet orange, fig, leafy vegetables, chillies, tomato, onion and brinjal along with floriculture like rose, marigold, jasmine and aster. The state-of-the-art Jewargi Agro Food park has specialised infrastructure facilities for food processing. Sugarcane and cotton are major thrust areas also.
As economic development is often linked with infrastructure development, airports are expected to further the development of the economies of the surrounding regions. Transportation in general affects the development of cities, with air travel having a large stake in both short and long distance transportation. The turdal, which produced by Kalaburgi and other six surrounding districts like Bidar, Yadgir, Ballari, Koppal, Vijayapura and Bagalakote reach several parts of India. The airport will also help nearby Ballari district, famous for manufacturing iron ore and jeans, as well as other readymade garment products that are popular in both domestic and international markets.
Real estate will boom automatically, once air infrastructure improves. Finally, airport economics have often included pricing and congestion issues in the past but these issues can be combined with the economic impact of airports to gain a better understanding of urban development in the context of airport development.
I hope the airport becomes a game changer in the region and bring opportunities to the people of Kalyana Karnataka who are friendly, helpful, congenial and trustworthy.
C.R. Janardhana is a president of Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce and Industry As told to Ramesh. S. Kebbehundi