Opening of the First Airport in Myanmar’s Chin State Delayed Amid COVID-19
By Zarni Mann 2 June 2020
Mandalay – The construction of Falam’s airport in Chin State is complete and flights can start soon, according to the state government.
Surbung Airport in Falam will be the first major airport in the mountainous state.
“The runway, the control tower and the airport buildings are all complete. The test landing will take place this month. However, due to COVID-19 restrictions and the weather, we cannot say yet when the airport will begin full operations,” said U Shwe Thio, the state’s transport minister.
The Department of Aviation said the airport was originally set to be fully operated this month but full operations were delayed by COVID-19 restrictions.
“Since there are travel restrictions, the opening is being delayed and we cannot tell when the airport will begin its operations,” U Soe Paing, the director of the Department of Aviation, told The Irrawaddy. “It all depends on the COVID-19 situation and Union government decisions.”
The project, which has a budget of about 37 billion kyats (US$26 million), was unveiled in 2013 and construction began in April 2015. The 522-hectare site is 1,830 meters above sea level and 13 km west of Falam. The 1,830-meter runway is 30 meters wide with a capacity for planes carrying 60 passengers.
Chin State, one of Myanmar’s poorest states, is only reachable by road and suffers from poor infrastructure. Monsoon rains cause landslides and ruin the state’s roads, regularly leaving large areas of the state isolated.
Surbung airport, in the center of the state, is expected to boost tourism at sights like the heart-shaped Rih Lake, Nat Ma Taung National Park and other scenic locations.
“When the airport is operating, our state will become accessible every season and communications with the rest of Myanmar will improve. Chin State’s tourism will also develop. The airport is very important for the development of the state,” said the U Shwe Thio.
Surbung will be Myanmar’s 69th airport. Myanmar has three international airports, in Yangon, Mandalay and Naypyidaw, and 31 domestic airports.