Civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya M. Scindia today said in the past three years, the Centre accorded 'In-Principle' approval for setting up 21 new greenfield airports, and that nine new greenfield airports were operationalised in the last five years since 2018.

Out of 21 granted in-principle approval in the last three years, 6 airports have already been operationalised. These were Orvakal (Kurnool) in 2021, Sindhudurg in 2021, Kushinagar in 2021, Itanagar in 2022, Mopa in 2023 and Shivamogga in 2023.

Presently, there are around 148 operational airports in the country, which include 137 airports, two water aerodromes and nine heliports. "At present, a total of 23 airports under the Airports Authority of India (AAI) are non-operational," he said.

"Out of the remaining greenfield airports where 'In-Principle' approval has been granted by this ministry, the probable dates of completion of airports at Navi Mumbai, Vijayapura, Hassan, Noida (Jewar), Hirasar and Dholera are due in next three years," Scindia said, adding that timelines for construction of airports depend upon factors like land acquisition, mandatory clearances, removal of obstacles, financial closure, etc. by the respective airport developers.

According to the minister, airports have emerged as a nucleus of economic activities and have a multiplier effect on the economy of the state. "The linkage between the civil aviation sector and economic growth is well recognised. International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) study shows air connectivity has an economic multiplier of 3.1 and employment multiplier of 6.1."

On the detailed criteria for choosing the cities where airports would be established under the Nextgen Airports for Bharat, Scindia says while 'NABH Nirman' is not currently being implemented, the expansion of airport infrastructure is being carried out through various initiatives.

These are attracting private players to invest in the sector by way of Public Private Partnership (PPP) process in both brownfield and greenfield airports; grant of "in-principle'' approval for the construction of new greenfield airports across the country; upgradation and modernisation of existing airports by AAI; and the development of unserved and underserved airports under Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) - Ude Desh Ka Aam Naagarik (UDAN).

Also, says the civil aviation ministry, under the UDAN scheme, 469 routes connecting 74 unserved and underserved airports, including 9 heliports and 2 water aerodromes have been operationalised as on February 28, 2023.

During various rounds of bidding under UDAN, 56 seaplane routes connecting 25 water aerodromes have been identified in Gujarat, Assam, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Goa, Himachal Pradesh and Lakshadweep. Notably, UDAN is a self-financing scheme. “VGF (Viability Gap Funding) amount of around ₹2,433 crore has been released to Selected Airline Operators as on 28.02.2023 for the operation of UDAN flights,” says the ministry.

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