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Kushinagar International Airport, UP, India


The plan for building an international airport in Kushinagar was conceived in 2008, under the rule of Mayawati as the Chief Minister. Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh is an important Buddhist pilgrimage site where the body of Gautama Buddha was cremated. It became one of the four holy places declared by the Buddha to be fit places for pilgrimage [1]. The place is mainly connected by the road. Although, there was already an old airstrip, spanning 97 acres in Kushingar, which handled small aircrafts, it was not enough to meet increasing volume of tourists from across the world. The government had hence taken a decision to develop an international airport in the city [2]. This airport would consist a runway of about 3,200 metres, so that it could even handle Boeing 747 flights from Saudi Arabia, Korea and Japan and cater the entire region spread across UP, Bihar and Nepal [6].

The project, integral for the integrated development of the entire Buddhist circuit, was to be built under the public-private partnership (PPP) mode on a design-build-finance-operate-transfer (DBFOT) basis [3, 4].

However, Kushinagar International Airport had faced a lot of problems when the project was conceived. While on the one hand the developers were finding the project to be ‘unviable’, despite the fact that it has been ‘sweetened’ by the state government, on the other hand, farmers of the twelve villages from which about 453,238 acres needed to be acquired around the existing airstrip were against it. Sporadic protests and agitations had been marring the government’s efforts so far [5]. The land required for the airport site is cultivable land and the farmers who own the land were not willing to give their land for the project. Farmers from two villages feared losing their land and homes to the airport site, whereas farmers from six more villages may lose their cultivable land. Farmers alleged that the compensation that the  government was giving was not sufficient to buy land at other places [2]. In the end, however, the government was able to acquire 584.65 acres by 2011-12 [7].

 The proposed project was granted a Viability Gap Funding (VGF) by the Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Government of India. In the 43rd Meeting of the Empowered Institution for the Scheme for Financial Support to Public Private Partnerships in Infrastructure, the central government gave an in-principle approval for a VGF of Rs 70.93 crores (20% of the project cost). The State Government of Uttar Pradesh had already expressed an additional support up to 20% of project cost. Therefore, the Total permissible VGF in this project would be approx. Rs 140 crores. The preliminary estimated total cost for developing the minimum specification of the proposed international airport development works out to Rs. 354 crores. The land for the development of the Kushinagar international airport will be given to the selected project developer for a 50 years (30 year 20 year) concession period[1].

The project, initially estimated to come up over 700 acres for Rs 75  crore,  was revived in 2012 with the cost Rs 350 crore and land requirement of 550 acres only.

In 2015, the state government of Uttar Pradesh decided to take the support of the Airport Authority of India to build the airport, since the earlier  public-partnership model hadn’t been successful in seven years [7]. According to this new decision, the state government would have borne about 40 per cent of the project cost, along with providing land on lease, logistic support and concessions to other investors, the Centre had approved 20 per cent viability gap finding for the airport and the AAI would have funded the rest. In March 2017, the new state  government under Yogi  Adityanath approved an additional sum of Rs. 50 crore for the project [8]. In November 2017, this government also released the entire budget of Rs. 200 crore for making the airport operational by mid-2018 [9].

In February 2018, the union minister for civil aviation Ashok Gajapathi Raju addressing the UP Investors’ Summit said that 56 new airports will come up in India in the next 15 months, with 9 of them being in Uttar Pradesh. The push for airports in India continues to be on the rise, and currently there seems to be no more protests by the farmers whose lands were acquired earlier.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Kushinagar International Airport, UP, India
State or province:Uttar Pradesh
Location of conflict:Kushinagar
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Land acquisition conflicts
Ports and airport projects
Specific commodities:Land
Airport expansion. Pilgrimage.
Tourism services

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The initial total project cost of developing an aviation hub at Kushinagar was pegged at Rs 850 crore in 2010. However, later on it was changed to be an international airport, and the project cost came down to Rs. 354 crore.

This would be the country’s first airport, where the Centre had given in-principle approval for viability gap funding (VGF) of 20 per cent. Additional 20 per cent grant has also been committed from the state government.

Hence, the total permissible VGF grant is 40 per cent of the project cost, which comes to about Rs 170 crore.

The government is aiming to develop a runway of about 3,200 metres, so that it could even handle Boeing 747 flights from Saudi Arabia, Korea and Japan and cater the entire region spread across UP, Bihar and Nepal. In November 2017, the chief minister Yogi Adityanath released nearly Rs 200 crore funds of the fast development of the airport.

Project area:222,577
Level of Investment:400,000,000
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:2010
Company names or state enterprises:IL&FS Infrastructure Development Company Limited from India - as project consultant
M/s India Aviation Consulting & Support from India - they are the Aviation consultants for preparation of Technical Feasibility Report and Master Plan for the proposed Airport
M/s SENES India Pvt. Ltd from India - they are the Environmental Impact Assessment EIA experts responsible for facilitating IL&FS IDC undertaking EIA studies and EIA clearance
Relevant government actors:Government of Uttar Pradesh, Planning Commission, Government of India, Department of Economic Affairs, Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Civil Aviation, Airport Authority of India
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:One former member of state legislature & Local Villagers

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Landless peasants
Local government/political parties
Forms of mobilization:Public campaigns
Street protest/marches


Environmental ImpactsPotential: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place


Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Institutional changes
Negotiated alternative solution
New legislation
Strengthening of participation
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The land required for the airport site is cultivable and the farmers who own the land are not willing to part with it. It is their only source of livelihood. Farmers from two villages fear losing their land and homes to the airport site. Farmers from six more villages may lose their cultivable land. Farmers alleged that the compensation that the government is giving is not sufficient to buy land at other places. The farmers cannot be deprived of their only asset and left landless [2]
As of 2018, the airport is under construction on a fast-track basis, with additional funds being released by the state government, and is supposed to be operational by mid-2018.

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy


[3] Kushinagar Airport project back on runway

[4] Kushinagar in UP to have international airport

[5] Protests put UP projects on the backburner

UP government plans international airport in Kushinagar

[1] Development of International Airport at Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh on A PPP Format Project Information Memorandum

[6] Kushinanagar international airport to get ready for takeoff. Newspaper article from 2013.

[7] Decision to change the model of airport construction from private partnership to partnership betweent the state government and Airport Authority of India

[8] Additional funds under the new state government of Uttar Pradesh in 2017

[9] Uttar Pradesh speeds up work on Kushinagar airport

[2] Farmers protest against acquisition of land for international airport in Kushinaga

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Air strip near Kushinagar

Meta information

Contributor:Swapan Kumar Patra and Brototi Roy
Last update18/08/2019



Kushinagar is the place where Lord Gautam Buddha breathed his last.

Kushinagar is an important Buddhist pilgrimage site where the body of Gautama Buddha was cremated