GANGTOK -- The first airport of Sikkim is expected to be operational from December 2016, which will provide a direct connectivity to the land-locked state and also help boost tourism.
"Preparation are afoot and we are hopeful that the state will have its first airport operational from December 2016," said Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma at the 4th International Tourism Mart here today.
Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling said the airport will come up at Pakyong which is 35 km from Gangtok. Currently the nearest airport is Bagdogra in Bengal and one has to drive down to Sikkim from Bagdogra.
Besides, the state is also going to be declared as an "organic state", first in the country, by next year, he said.
Giving details about the concept of organic state, Chamling said it is a green initiative and the concept has been prepared to make all farming activities environmentally friendly.
There will be no use of pesticide or chemical fertilisers in farming, and crops and vegetables will be grown with organic manure.
The Sikkim chief minister also said that there will be no use of non-biodegradable materials in the state as part of the organic drive. Chamling also said that yoga will be a part of the school curriculum.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to declare Sikkim as organic state.
Speaking on the occasion, the Union Tourism minister said that Sikkim and other northeast states are the focus area of the government for promotion of tourism in the country.
Hailing Sikkim as a peaceful state, Sharma said not a single case of communal violence has taken place in the state for long and use of police force is minimum here.
Sharma said,"We are proud of Sikkim and the state has great potential for tourism and the Centre is extending all help to promote northeast including Sikkim as a tourist hub.
"The ministry has allocated Rs 98 crore to Sikkim for the development of tourism out of which Rs 90 cr is already released".
Sharma said the government has extended e-visa facility to 113 countries and as a result there has been increase of about 40 per cent of foreign tourist arrivals.
The foreign exchange has also increased due to more footfalls, the Tourism Minister said.
He also said that there is tourist helpline (1363) operational for tourists. "At present, it is available in Hindi and English languages only, but soon we will make it operational with 12 foreign languages to help tourists," he said.