Why is it in the news-

  • In a significant development, Gujarat is set to begin the nation’s first seaplane service between the Sabarmati Riverfront in Ahmedabad and the iconic Statue of Unity in Kevadia in the state of Gujarat.
  • Prior to this, the Govts of Kerala has proposed the sea plane operations in its backwater way back in 2013, but was abolished due to the protests by the fisherman community of the state.
  • Odisha has also been a runner in this race, to establish a water aerodrome in the Chilka lake, but the project was declined due to huge opposition by the environmentalists, as it could have very serious effects on the aquatic ecosystem of the Chilka.

Seaplane services-

  • A seaplane is a powered fixed-wing aircraft capable of taking off and landing (alighting) on water.
  • Seaplanes that can also take off and land on airfields are in a subclass called amphibious aircraft, or amphibians.
  • The use of seaplanes gradually tapered off after World War II, partially because of the investments in airports during the war. In the 21st century, seaplanes maintain a few niche uses, such as for dropping water on forest fires, air transport around archipelagos, and access to undeveloped or roadless areas, some of which have numerous lakes.
  • Now, the seaplanes are largely used for tourism purposes as it gives a wider view of the water-scapes and are safer than water boats.

Formerly proposed project for Seaplane service-

  • On June 2013, the then Kerala’s Chief Minister Oommen Chandy on Sunday launched the country’s first seaplane service from the backwaters in Kollam.
  • The launch of the service, however, faced a protest from a Left-backed fishermen’s organisation in Alappuzha, forcing the seaplane to change its landing location. Finally, the launch was stopped citing the poor weather conditions, and also due to the protest in Alappuzha, as stated by the state govt.

Water Aerodrome Project in chilka-

  • In 2018, The Union government proposed for setting up of five water aerodromes in the country to promote tourism, including the one at the Chilika lake.
  • Subsequently it faced with sharp criticism from the state government of Odisha and various other organizations. According to the State Government, it would directly affect two lakh fishermen families and the biodiversity of Asia’s largest saltwater lake.
  • Apart from Chilika, Gujarat’s Sardar Sarovar Dam and Sabarmati River Front have been cleared for the project in the first phase. Other states like Andhra Pradesh, Assam and Maharashtra were also in the list of water aerodrome projects.
  • The Green Nobel prize winner environmental activist, Prafulla Samantara while opposing the move pointed that it can affect its biodiversity and have negative impact on the livelihood of thousands of families depending on it.

The first to-be successful sea-plane project in India-

  • The sea-plane service will begin from 31 October, which marks the pious birth anniversary of the nation’s first minister for home affairs, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, who is also celebrated as the Iron Man of India.
  • The launch of seaplane service would provide seamless and affordable air connectivity to the Statue of Unity from the Sabarmati riverfront at a ticket price of around Rs 4,800 per person.
  • The service will be operated by Spicejet Airline from Sabarmati riverfront in Ahmadabad to Statue of Unity in Kevadia, the release by the state govt implied.
  • It is necessary to note that PM Narendra Modi and Union Minister Nitin Gadkari have in the past pushed for the launch of seaplane services across different destinations the nation. The launch of the service between Ahmedabad and the Statue of Unity in Kevadia would mark the beginning of the manifestation of the same vision.

UDAN Scheme by GoI-

  • UDAN-RCS, UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik) is a regional airport development and “Regional Connectivity Scheme” (RCS) of Government of India.
  • The objective of the project is “letting the common citizen of the country fly”, aimed at making air travel affordable and widespread, to boost inclusive national economic development, job growth and air transport infrastructure development of all regions and states of India.
  • The UDAN Scheme is a key component of the Prime Narendra Modi’s National Civil Aviation Policy (NCAP) which was released by the Ministry of Civil Aviation (India) on 15 June 2016.
  • The UDAN scheme is said to be jointly funded by the central government and state governments, as several states have come on board by signing the “Memorandum of Understanding” with the union government for this scheme.

The above project of sea plane is also a part of the UDAN Scheme, with the participation of Gujarat govt and the GoI with an emphasis on Public-Private-Partnering for the establishment.

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