In a major development, the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), has given permission to run civilian flights from Naini-Saini airport of Pithoragarh district in Kumoan region which in turn would give a boost to tourism in the border region besides giving much needed relief to residents of far flung areas bordering Nepal and China.
The Naini-Saini airport of Pithoragarh has received the much awaited license from Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), to run the civil flights for six months according to Anurag Arya, manager of Airport and Sub-Divisional Magistrate(SDM), Pithoragarh.
The restart of the civilian flights from Naini-Saini airport at Pithoragarh would open vast avenues of tourism in the most beautiful mountainous district which boasts of having the virgin peaks, glaciers and meadows. Already the high peaks and glaciers are favourite of mountaineers in Pithoragarh and adjoining Bageshwar district. The Munsiyari area of Pithoragarh is another favourite of the tourists.
The Uttarakhand government has embarked on an ambitious plan to promote religious tourism in the area by starting Mansarovar yatra and package tours to Om Parvat after the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra which used to run from the Kumoan region was stopped following Covid pandemic. Kumoan Mandal Vikas Nigam (KMVN), a state government tourism undertaking used to manage the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra but now it has started package tours to Mansarovar and Om Parvat which are getting enthusiastic response.
However, the growth of tourism had suffered due to geographical distances and the restart of the civilian flights are expected to give a fillip to tourism activities also in the entire region.
The necessary conditions for the Naini-Saini airport to run commercial civilian flights were fulfilled with the removal of four buildings which were coming in the way of landing and taking off of flights on the air field and additions of other infrastructural facilities.
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhani who himself hails from Kumoan region had announced the start of civilian flights from Naini-Saini airport in the beginng of this year and Chief Secretary S.S.Sandhu had also visited to oversee the developments in February this year promising to start the airport within two months. .
The airport could now be able to land a 22 seater aircraft and the company, assigned to run civil flights has reportedly purchased an aircraft specially to run a flight to and fro daily between Dehradun and Pithoragarh. The road journey from Dehradun to Pithoragarh takes fifteen hours and with the introduction of air connectivity,the same distance would be covered in one and half hour.
The Naini Saini Airport in Pithoragarh was inaugurated in 1994, by the then Union Civil Aviation Minister Gulam Nabi Azad in the presence of UP Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav.But only chartered or private flights could take place carrying VIPs.
The civilian flights from Pithoragarh to Hindon near Delhi started in October 2019 by ‘Heritage airline’, which could continue only for six months till March 2020 and later suspended following a technical snag in the aircraft midair.
“ The desire and demand of the people of the region who had been waiting for long has been fulfilled by our Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the request of Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami. Now long awaited air services will give benefit to the people and promote tourism in the region with the start of civilian flights ,” said Girish Joshi, president of BJP Pithoragarh unit.
Uttarakhand government has in December 2022, signed a MOU with Indian Air Force (IAF) to let it operate the airport.
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami has thanked the Union Civil Aviation Minister for giving the license for Naini-Saini airport.