World's largest Buddha statue to come up at Gaya

Yeshi Seli/New Delhi

The Airports Authority of India (AAI) has given clearance for the installation of a 500-feet high bronze statue of Buddha (the largest in the world) 5 km away from Gaya airport.

"We gave our nod as this statue would not be a hindrance to any flights that would start operating from Gaya airport once the runway length is extended. Besides, it would be a major tourist attraction," Chairman AAI, D V Gupta told The Pioneer.

The project cost of installing the statue is estimated to be Rs 300 crore and is being taken up by a European group of Buddhist followers -Matri Group. Besides the statue there are plans of making a convention centre, hospital and centre for study of Buddhism around the statue.

Seeing the potential that Buddhist tourism has to offer in this sector, the AAI has decided to go ahead with the expansion of the runway at Gaya by August this year. The runway length of the airport is 4,500 feet which is being increased to 7,000 feet at an estimated cost of Rs 13 crore. This runway could be further extended to 9,000 feet in the second phase. AAI is optimistic of the Government partly funding the project. Sources in the AAI, however, say that seeing the affluence of the Buddhist community, the AAI may even invite bids for modernising the airport with private sector participation. Gaya airport was constructed in the early 80's but has withered away from the lack of use. The project is being revived seeing the potential tourism has to offer.

It is reported that more than 250,000 Buddhist tourists are expected to visit this sector within the next five years. Once Gaya airport is modernised, it would enable 100,000 more tourists to visit Gaya within the next three years, say sources. AAI has around 600 acres of land around Gaya airport. However, around 12 acres of land next to the terminal building have been encroached upon which could be a hindrance in the expansion of the terminal building. AAI will face a tough situation in dealing with the clearance of the encroachments next to the terminal as most of the encroaches have been around for over a decade. Gaya would soon be the third operational airport in Bihar after Patna and Ranchi and this is the only one which at present has the potential to expand and modernise.

Patna airport situated in the heart of the city has a railway line on one side and a flyover on the other with little scope of expansion. The other airport at Ranchi could probably go to Vananchal if the issue is resolved, which would leave only Gaya airport to be developed in Bihar.

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