Dreams come true, after all. For millions of Indians, a visit to Leh, Ladakh region of the Himalayas in the Northernmost part of India is a “distant” dream, pun intended. With scenes shot in a number of Bollywood and other language movies starting from Aamir Khan’s “3 Idiots”, a trip to Ladakh region has become a ritual for thousands of auto-enthusiasts and travel aficionados. The picturesque region, which is getting far too commercial than it should otherwise, is drawing millions of visitors every year, save for 2020 due to the pandemic and travel restrictions that followed. Thousands of travellers take their own vehicles, bikes and cars while a crazy few even take an auto or a bicycle all the way to the famed Pangong Lake. but things could change for the better, soon.
The Narendra Modi Government which has been on an airport-opening spree over the past 5 years has confirmed that the Ladakh Airport would be operational by Dec. ‘22 with commercial flights landing and taking from the country’s highest air-base at Thoise, which is also the closest to neighbouring Pakistan. This means, the flight duration from Delhi’s IGI Airport to Leh could take as much as 90 mins and a further 120-150 mins to Delhi from any part of India such as Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Ahmedabad or Kolkata. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the country’s 100th airport at Gangtok in Oct. ‘19, months before pandemic struck the world and civil aviation crumpled to pieces in the country thereafter.
Aviation and retail / consumer development have gone hand in hand. With former examples of developing airports in Tier 2 towns such as Jodhpur or Bagdogra have paved the way for an increase in tourist influx due to which not just the city, but the entire region had benefitted. The famed palaces of Rajasthan are now accessible faster by landing at capital Jaipur or at Jodhpur, thereby propelling domestic and international tourism which eventually aids in retail, hospitality as well as generates employment and livelihood for thousands. It is common to see smaller airports in Europe and USA which have helped economic growth for the respective regions, attracting large her of tourists.
With an airport in Ladakh, an average Indian living across the peninsula can now travel with ease and convenience for a few thousands. but the concern is environmental hazard as the higher regions of the country do not have ease of sanitation neither can absorb the inflow of tourists beyond a point. Need to wait and see it the Govt. would fix an additional cess to keep the region cleaner as part of its Swachh Bharath Abhiyan.