Jaffna, July 8: India and Sri Lanka has shared a close knitted relation with each other. Sharing demographic boundaries, the two neighbouring countries will now be connected through airways. In this regard, Sri Lanka has started the construction work for upgradation of Palali airport near Jaffna in Tamil-majority Northern Province.
Speaking at a function to mark the inauguration last week, Minister of Transport and Aviation Arjuna Ranatunga said direct flights would be initially operated to Indian destinations of Bangalore, Cochin, Mumbai and Hyderabad through 75-seater aircraft. He said that the total investment would be 2.25 billion rupees out of which, the Indian government will grant 300 million rupees for the project.
He said the present 950-meter runway would be re-laid under the first phase and later would be extended to 1.5 km allowing larger aircraft to land. Adding further the minister said that people now flying to Chennai and Bangalore from Colombo airport spend one hour flying time but waste almost six hours to get to Colombo. He said opening up Palali to Indian traffic will cut off these six hours and boost tourism and create business and job opportunities in the north.
It may be mentioned that Palali airport was used for air travel between then Madras and Jaffna in the 1960s but got disrupted due to decades-long LTTE War.
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has said that the development of the north is a high priority of his government, and an international airport in the Jaffna peninsula would boost the economy in the region.