NEW DELHI - India inaugurated a multi-billion-dollar airport terminal in New Delhi on Saturday -- a shiny glass and steel symbol of the country`s aspirations as an emerging global power
The state-of-the-art hub, which cost nearly three billion dollars and can handle 34 million passengers a year, was showcased at a special ceremony by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ahead of opening to the public later this month.
Built in just 37 months to coincide with New Delhi`s hosting of the Commonwealth Games in October, the terminal sprawls over four square kilometres (1.5 square miles) and boasts 97 automated walkways and 78 aerobridges.
"This is a demonstration of what India is truly capable of," Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said at the inauguration ceremony at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, which was also attended by ruling Congress party president Sonia Gandhi.
The facility, on which nearly 40,000 workmen toiled at the height of construction, is India`s third world-class airport after Hyderabad and Bangalore but dwarfs both.
"It`s an advertisement of India`s ability to create world-class infrastructure," economist D.H. Pai Panandiker, who heads the independent RPG Goenka Foundation in New Delhi, a private economic think-tank, told AFP.
As Asia`s third-largest economy after China and Japan, India urgently needs to upgrade its dilapidated transport infrastructure, including ports and roads, which is seen as a major hurdle to accelerating economic expansion.
"Overcoming our infrastructure handicaps will remove some of the major handicaps to faster growth," said Panandiker.
India`s airline passenger traffic rates are among the world`s highest and are expected to double over the next five years.
The new terminal was built by a public-private consortium -- headed by south India-based GMR Group -- that included Germany`s Fraport and Malaysian Airports.
BDST: 12:12 HRS, July 3, 2010