The government of Jammu & Kashmir Union Territory in India is moving along with plans to establish a subsidised seaplane service between Dal Lake in Srinagar and Manasbal, with Mehair (Mumbai International) poised to be the operator.

The Secretary of the local Civil Aviation Department, Mohammad Aijaz Asad, asked officials to accelerate work on the final approvals in terms of the impact on irrigation and flood control. Final security aspects are also under review. The regional government hopes that a direct link between the two lakes will further boost tourism, which is already experiencing steady growth.

"With tourism and the overall development of Kashmir a thrust area for the Government of India, seaplanes have emerged as an exciting option for connecting the various lakes in Kashmir starting with the very popular Dal and Manasbal lakes. Once all permissions are secured, Mehair's seaplanes will proudly dot the skies of Kashmir and will play a vital role in giving a further fillip to tourism and economic development of the region," Director Siddharth Verma told ch-aviation.

The regional carrier, which is currently dormant, recently said it was planning to take its first Cessna (single turboprop) C208 Grand Caravan in May 2024 and aimed to have ten - including two outfitted with floats and the others with fixed gears - by the end of 2024.

The Indian government plans to include dedicated seaplane routes under the forthcoming UDAN 5.3 subsidisation scheme. It will be the first round of the programme explicitly targeting this market segment, although seaplane operators will also be allowed to bid in the UDAN 5.2 round. Currently, despite the abundance of suitable waterways and underserved regions, India has no commercial seaplane services. In 2020/2021, SpiceJet (SG, Delhi International) attempted to launch a scheduled route in Gujarat, with the local government's non-UDAN backing, using a DHC-6-300 wet-leased from Maldivian (Q2, Malé), but suspended it shortly after its launch and has not revisited the project since.