Prime Minister Narendra Modi Monday inaugurated Sikkim’s first own airport at Pakyong. The airport, perched between the Himalayan ranges at a height of 4,500 ft, is India’s 100th functional airport. Modi arrived in Gangtok on Sunday evening after rolling out the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) — the largest government health insurance scheme in the world — in Jharkhand.
Dedicating the airport to the nation, PM Modi said the Pakyong airport is not only a tribute to the beauty of Sikkim but also to the engineering marvel. “It’s a century for the country today. I would like to congratulate the planning team and the engineers involved in building the airport. The airport was inaugurated today, but the pictures have been trending on social media for the last few days. The government is trying to boost infrastructure projects and connectivity in Northeast.”
Taking a jibe at the former UPA government, Modi said, “Out of the 100 airports in India today, 35 airports have come up in the past four years. This shows our zeal. Our government is working with the motto of ‘sabka saath sabka vikaas.’ In the north-eastern states, a lot of development has taken place for the first time — from air to rail connectivity, to even electricity.”
The airport whose foundation stone was laid, around 33 km from Gangtok, in 2009 will ensure easier connectivity of the state with the rest of the country. The greenfield airport — the Northeast’s first — which has been conceived at a budget of Rs 605.59 crore is engineered to include soil reinforcement and slope stabilisation techniques in the context of the altitude it has been built in.
The airport constructed by the Airports Authority of India is spread over 201 acres and is equipped with ATC tower-cum-fire station, two sophisticated CFT, one terminal building for passengers, high-intensity runway lights, parking for over 50 vehicles. The Indian Air Force (IAF) would be able to land various types of aircraft on the airport’s runway with the construction of another 75-metre stretch adjacent to the main runway in the coming days, Sikkim Chief Secretary A K Srivastava said.
The reinforcement wall of the project is 80-metre-high, one of the tallest in the world, the chief secretary said. Pakyong Airport Director R Manjunatha said the land for the airport was carved from the mountainside using massive geotechnical ‘cut and fill’ engineering works. The first commercial flight from Pakyong would begin from October 4.