Sabarimala Airport plan moves one step closer to realisation

New Delhi: The long-discussed Sabarimala Airport, which will give a big boost to the tourism and healthcare potential of south central Kerala, has moved one step closer to becoming a reality with the Ministry of Defence giving its approval for the project.
The airport is proposed to be set up on land currently forming part of the Cheruvally  Estate, near Erumely, close to the famous Sabarimala Temple, in Kerala's Pathanamthitta district.
It is primarily meant for the millions of pilgrims who converge at the Sabarimala Temple every year. The Christian convention at Maramon closeby also attracts thousands of believers every year.
The airport, which would have a runway of 3,500 metres, would greatly benefit expatriates hailing from Pathanamthitta, Kottayam, Alappuzha, and Idukki districts of South Central Kerala. It would also benefit residents of the border districts of Tamil Nadu.
Besides pilgrim tourism, the airport would also help promote the several modern and traditional healthcare facilities in south central Kerala.
Responding to a question by Congress MP Anto Antony in the Lok Sabha, Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said the Defence Ministry had communicated its favourable response to the airport project to the Ministry of Civil Aviation.
The Minister said the airport project can move forward once it receives environmental clearance. The environmental impact study is being coordinated by the State-run Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC), which had been appointed the nodal agency for all the preliminary work, including land acquisition.
Mr. Scindia said the Corporation had also been asked to study how construction of the airport at Sabarimala would affect the airports at Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, and Madurai, which were within a 150-km radius. The final decision would be taken based on these study reports.
Kerala already has four international airports in operation in Kerala. The proposal to have a fifth airport at Erumely was taken by the last Oommen Chandy Government. The present State Government approved the proposal for land acquisition in late December.
As much as  2,570 acres of land, mostly covering the Cheruvally Estate, is being acquired between Erumeli South and Manimala. As much as 307 acres of land is being acquired outside the estate.
The Cheruvally Estate is owned by the Thiruvalla-headquartered Believers Church, but the Government has for long contested its title claim. The process of land acquisition is yet to be publicised.

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