The Gujarat government has officially announced the inauguration of the first ever sea plane service in the state from October 31 — which marks the birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. The inaugural flight will take off from Sabarmati Riverfront in Ahmedabad to the Statue of Unity in Kevadia colony in Narmada district, to be operated by private airline SpiceJet.
In a release on Saturday, the state government announced that a MoU was signed on July 22 this year between Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) and Airports Authority of India to start the “first-ever seaplane services in Gujarat to provide seamless and affordable air connectivity from Sabarmati Riverfront, Ahmedabad to the Statue of Unity, Kevadia. The kind of service is first ever in the country,” the release said.
The service may be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said an official. Modi is likely to be visiting Gujarat around that time to celebrate the birth anniversary of Sardar Patel, as ‘Rashtriya Ekta Divas’ which, government sources have told this paper, might be accorded the stature of the Republic Day celebrations.
Modi had taken a seaplane flight from Sabarmati Riverfront in Ahmedabad to Dharoi in December 2017, ahead of the Gujarat assembly polls that year.
According to the statement, the water aerodrome scheme is being implemented by the terms and conditions of a tripartite agreement between the state government, Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA), and the Airports Authority of India.
“In this connection, a high-level meeting was organised on August 29 at New Sachivalaya, Gandhinagar to review the progress of the water aerodrome operation in Gujarat which was chaired by Chief Secretary, along with the Secretary, Civil Aviation, Joint Secretary, Civil Aviation, DOG- DGCA, Concerned officials from Airports Authority of India, Airline Operator (Spicejet), and other government officials from state and central governments.”
Officials said that SpiceJet will operate a 19-seater plane, which will be able to accommodate 14 passengers. “There will be four flights a day between Ahmedabad and Kevadia on each side — which means four arrivals and four departures. The ticket price per person will be about Rs 4,800. Anyone wishing to cut down on their travel time between Ahmedabad and Kevadia which currently takes about four hours one way, can do so by turning it into a day’s trip. Return tickets can be booked on the seaplane to ensure that the passengers can return to Ahmedabad from Kevadia during the day. The journey by seaplane will be about one hour,” the official said.
At Kevadia, work on completing the sea plane terminal is underway at the Dyke 3 of the Narmada dam premises. In September 2019, the District Collector of Narmada had issued orders to restrict traffic movement within the premises of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Dam, temporarily closing the exit road along the three natural ponds that also served as a scenic drive for tourists. The administration has begun the work of isolating Dyke 3, which was chosen as the location for seaplane terminal in July 2018. The Batherymetric and Hydrographic survey were conducted by Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI).
The rock-filled pond is officially named Panchmuli Lake and popularly called the ‘Magar Talav’ as it is infested with crocodiles. The site was finalised for terminal as its dimensions suit the requirements of landing the seaplane, which requires a minimum width of 900 metres in a water body with a depth of at least six feet. This is not the first time that Panchmuli lake has been chosen for tourist activity. The lake was a boating spot until 2013 when a stranded boat with about 60 tourists was surrounded by crocodiles, causing much panic among authorities