By Sujit Chakraborty
AGARTALA: After Guwahati and Imphal, Agartala’s Maharaja Bir Bikram (MBB) Airport is set to become the third international airport in the north-eastern region, after a Rs 438 crore project under construction is completed in March 2021, Airport Authority of India (AAI) officials said on Monday.
Construction work on the new integrated terminal building of MBB Airport has been completed and now the interior work is going on. By March 31, all the work would be completed, an AAI official added.
“Through the MBB Airport, the state government is keen to begin air connectivity with Bangladesh and other neighbouring countries,” a senior AAI official told IANS preferring anonymity.
He said the new terminal has been designed to handle 1,000 domestic and 200 international passengers during peak hours, making it an annual handling capacity of three million passengers.
“The new airport apron has the capacity to park six aircraft at a time. With a built-up area of 30,000 square metre, the new terminal building would be equipped with 20 check-in counters, four passenger boarding bridges, conveyor belts and passenger-friendly modern facilities and amenities.
“Advanced intelligent building management systems have been used to optimise the consumption of energy,” the official added.
He said locally available bamboo is used widely in the state for construction whereas tribal art work and crafts are included to promote cultural tourism.
The art and craft work is displayed all over the terminal in the form of sculptures, ‘jaali’ work, furniture and murals. The bamboo architecture is represented in the facade of the terminal building by way of a floral ‘jaali’ pattern depicting the forests and greenery of the region, placed equidistant from each other.
“Depiction of local motifs in metal cladding would create vibrancy while displaying glimpses of the local art to the passengers,” the AAI official said.
The airport, which was built in 1942 by the erstwhile King Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya Bahadur, is the second busiest in the north-east after Guwahati’s Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport.
Imphal Airport in Manipur was declared as an international airport three-and-a-half years ago. The Union Civil Aviation Ministry in 2018 renamed the Agartala airport, earlier known as Singerbhil Airport, after Tripura’s last ruler Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya Bahadur.
During World War II, it was used by the fourth Combat Cargo Group of the US Air Forces flying Curtiss C-46 aircraft over Myanmar. It was used as a supply point from which the unit air-dropped supplies and ammunition to the advancing allied forces on the ground.
Tripura Transport and Tourism Minister Pranajit Singha Roy said after the completion of the airport project flights between Agartala and Dhaka as well as other Bangladesh cities such as Chittagong and Sylhet, could be operated.
“The state government had provided 72 acres of land to the AAI for construction of the new terminal building, runway and other necessary infrastructure.”
The airport is located 20 km north of the capital city Agartala and sits just along the India-Bangladesh border.
According to the AAI official, there are 13 existing airports in the north-east region — Guwahati, Silchar, Dibrugarh, Jorhat, Tezpur and Lilalabari (Assam), Tezu and Pasighat (Arunachal Pradesh), Agartala (Tripura), Imphal (Manipur), Shillong (Meghalaya), Dimapur (Nagaland) and Lengpui (Mizoram).
The AAI has started work to redevelop the Rupsi airport in Kokrajhar district in Western Assam bordering West Bengal. It would be the seventh airport in Assam.
The AAI is now developing the Hollongi airport, the 15th airport in the north-eastern region and the third in Arunachal Pradesh, boosting the air connectivity of the mountainous areas.