The Centre is ready to strengthen existing aviation infrastructure in Odisha but the state government should ensure land for the proposed new international airport near Bhubaneswar, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Wednesday.
Responding to queries during Question Hour in Rajya Sabha, the minister said the Jharsuguda airport in western Odisha is a "full-fledged" airport and the Centre is willing to cooperate with the state government to address infrastructure gaps.
Highlighting land issues for setting up of a new international airport near Bhubaneswar, Puri said: "Three sites have been identified by authorities concerned. But the Airport Authority of India found them to be inadequate. The fourth site is under discussion."
The aviation infrastructure needs to be strengthened in Odisha as there has been a 25 per cent growth in the number of air passengers at Bhubaneswar airport, while 24 per cent growth in cargo and 30 per cent growth in number of flights, he added.
Noting that the Centre otherwise does not construct greenfield airports within 150 km in a state, the minister said, "Since the existing airport does not have the capacity, we are willing to do it. The Centre is willing to cooperate and provide infrastructure but the state government has to provide the land."
Responding to a query on poor flight service at the Jharsuguda airport launched last year, the minister said, "It is a full-fledged airport. The issue is on civil aviation infrastructure. We are happy to cooperate."
On the state government's demand for a direct Bhubaneswar-Dubai flight, the minister said, "Flights are operated by private carriers. Pursuant to the request received from the Odisha chief minister, we have been in touch with private carriers and it is our expectation that one of the private carriers will be able to commence that flight at an early date."
To another request to start direct flights from Bhubaneswar to Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore to facilitate religious and cultural tourism, the minister said, "So if there is a demand, then I would recommend authorities concerned to reach out directly to service providers or through us. We are happy to facilitate the discussions."
There is a tremendous growth in civil aviation sector both domestically and internationally. But the decision on whether to operationalise a particular route is to be taken entirely by the air carrier itself, he said.
"The decision to operationalise a route from Bhubaneswar to Jakarta or Bhubaneswar to Colombo will entirely depend on the commercial viability of the proposition," he added.