Jaipur, Sep 21 (IANS) More than 100 small airports will be developed across the country, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Saturday, noting that cities are the engines of the country's economic development.
"Initially, big cities were connected by air. Now the focus is on connecting smaller cities," he said after laying the foundation stone of the Kishangarh airport in Ajmer district, 120 km from here. He later launched Phase-i of the Jaipur Metro and dedicated to the nation a solar power plant.
The new airport, being built at a cost of around Rs.1.6 billion, is slated to be operational in three years.
"...air connectivity has now become necessary to ensure a country's development. The lack of air connectivity may prove to be a hindrance," Manmohan Singh said, adding: "We have launched an ambitious project to develop small airports in small towns and cities.
"As per our plans, we will develop over 100 small airports in various parts of the country. Kishangarh airport is the first project under this plan," the prime minister said.
About 16 crore people in India travelled by air last year.
"In the last 10 years, there has been a big jump in people travelling by flights. The number of passengers is expected to go up to 30 crore by the end of 2020.
Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh, Rajasthan Governor Margaret Alva, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and Corporate Affairs Minister Sachin Pilot were also present.
Later in Jaipur, the prime minister said that Metro rail projects are a viable option to deal with the problem of lack of public transportation with increasing urbanization in the country.
The work on Jaipur Metro's underground corridor, proposed from Chandpole to Badi Chaupar in Jaipur, will begin soon and is expected to cost around Rs.507 crore.
"Cities are the engines of economic development in the country. Sixty percent of the GDP is contributed by the urban areas. As per an estimate, about 60 crore people will be living in cities by 2031. The increasing urbanisation brings with it several challenges. Public transportation is one of them," said Manmohan Singh.
He also stressed that availability of energy on reasonable prices is essential for country's fast development.
"The need for energy has increased in the past decade. Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission is among the eight missions which are being implemented as part of national action plan to deal with the challenge of climate change. The plan was started in 2010. By 2020, we aim to produce 20,000 MW grid connected solar energy," he said.
"I want to use this occasion to mention the ambitious Delhi-Jaipur Expressway Project...The travel between Delhi and Jaipur will take only two hours after completion of this expressway project," he said.