The airport in Uttar Pradesh's Kushinagar, an important Buddhist pilgrimage site, is being upgraded to international standards to facilitate improved connectivity and boost tourism and hospitality in the region, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said Wednesday evening.
The decision was taken at a session of the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at which "far-reaching reforms in the space sector" - announced last month as part of the government's Rs 20 lakh crore package for the coronavirus-hit Indian economy were also discussed.
"You know that Kushinagar is the mid-point of the Buddhist circuit. However, there was no airport there of international standards. Therefore Kushinagar airport is being declared as an international airport," Prakash Javadekar said, adding that a three-km long runway had already been constructed.
"Now even a big aircraft, like an Airbus, can land at the airport," he said.
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Kushinagar Airport declared as an 'International Airport' will boost tourism & provide impetus to economic development in the region
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath thanked the government and said: "The move will help boost tourism in UP due to airport's proximity to Shravasti, Lumbini, Kapilvastu, Sarnath and Gaya tourist places".
According to the government as many as 300 devotees from Thailand, Cambodia, Japan, Myanmar and other countries visit Kushinagar, where Gautama Buddha attained Mahaparinirvana (final enlightenment) every day.
In addition, several other Buddhist pilgrimage sites are nearby - Shravasti is around 400 km away, Lumbini is around 143 km away and Kapilavastus is around 190 km away.
"Hence declaration of Kushinagar airport as an international airport will offer improved connectivity and wider choice of services, at competitive costs, resulting in boosting of tourism and economic development of the region," the government said.
The government said demand for improved connectivity had been frequently made by tourists. The "Buddhist circuit" of which Kushinagar is a part, is a set of key pilgrimage sites for 530 million practicing Buddhists worldwide.
Meanwhile, among other "landmark" decisions taken at today's meeting were the setting up of an Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation centre (IN-SPACe) and a New Space India Limited (NSIL) to promote private participation in space exploration and related activities.
The government also approved the Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund (AHIDF) amounting to Rs 15,000 crore. This too was announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman last month as part of the package for the economy.
With input from ANI, PTI