Aranmula International Airport
|Aranmula International Airport Project
अरनमुला अंतरराष्ट्रीय हवाई अड्डे
ആറന്മുള അന്താരാഷ്ട്ര വിമാനത്താവളം
|IATA: none – ICAO:
|Airport type||Private airport|
|Owner||KGS Pvt. Ltd.|
|Operator||KGS Aranmula International Airport Ltd.|
|Serves||Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha, Kottayam, Idukki, Kollam|
|Location||Aranmula, Kerala, India|
KGS Aranmula International Airport is an airport project planned to be built at Aranmula, Kerala in India, at a cost of Rs. 20 billion. The airport is proposed to be built on about 700 acres (2.8 km2) of land. The controversial project faces strong protest from environmentalists and local people as well as the opposition parties in Kerala. The State Government, however, is of the view that the Airport is necessary and has declared that it would go ahead with the project, notwithstanding the Parliamentary Standing Committee's opposition to it. The project is expected to generate 1,500 direct and 6,000 indirect jobs.
The airport is planned to be built on about 700 acres of land at a cost of ₹2000 crore (US$320 million). It will cater to wide body aircraft like the Boeing 747 with a runway length of 3,100 x 45 meters with PCN 45 F/B/W/T. The terminal building is being designed to handle 1,000 passengers at a time. The company plans to have a Special Economic Zone, a multi-specialty hospital, a shopping mall (either Lulu or Phoenix Market City), a luxury hotel and an international school within the airport complex. The airport, which is less than 100 km from Cochin International Airport and Thiruvanananthapuram International Airport, is expected to serve four districts in Kerala state, namely Pathanamthitta, and some areas of Kottayam, Idukki and Alappuzha.
The project is being funded through equity and debt. The equity portion accounts for around Rs 10 billion. The debt-equity ratio is 2:1. Three banks including ICICI, IDBI Bank and SBI have funded the debt portion. The Kerala government has a 10% stake in the company and has nominated one member to the board of the company, while the Government owned oil company Indian Oil Corporation is negotiating to pick up a 10% stake. The first phase of the project is expected to cost Rs 7.50 billion.
The Kerala government had sanctioned an in principle approval for the airport during the Left Democratic Front regime in 2009, demanding that the promoters procure sufficient land on their own. However, the Central Government gave the green signal for the proposed airport in October 2012 and the project was estimated to be completed within 18 months. An executive summary of the project including the anticipated environmental impact was prepared by Chennai based Enviro Care India Pvt. Ltd. and was submitted to the Government of India. However, the Environmental clearance for the project has not been granted yet.
The Legislative Assembly Committee on Environmental Affairs chaired by C P Mohammed MLA found the Airport Project "highly detrimental to the environment" The Project met with opposition right from its initial stages from leaders of various streams of society including Social Worker Kummanam Rajasekharan, Poetess-cum-Environmentalist Sugathakumari and Politician V. M. Sudheeran. Allegations of discrepancies in awarding clearances through easy processes have been raised, adding to the project's controversies. The agitations are being led by members of the Paithruka Grama Karmasamithy.
The Kerala State Biodiversity Board submitted a report to the government in March 2013, expressing its reservations over "the land use changes and ecological imbalance that the project will entail" The Board observed that 80% of the 500 acres earmarked for the project were paddy fields. Conversion of a portion of the 3,500-acre paddy field would "impact on the remaining wetlands, disturb the food chain, and accelerate the depletion of fish resources as well as other flora and fauna in the Pamba river basin."
The runway is being constructed over the Kozhithode canal, which is a tributary of the Pamba river. Several species of fish migrate upstream from the river through the canals to the water-logged paddy fields. Reclamation of these wetlands would deprive the fish of their breeding grounds. Razing hills in the neighbourhood for soil to reclaim the fields could lead to biodiversity loss and water shortage. The Board warned the government of water scarcity and flooding in the areas neighbouring the project site if paddy fields and water bodies were converted for the construction of the airport.
The Board recommended a series of conservation programmes to ensure that the airport project did not impact on the biodiversity of the region. It cautioned against filling up of canals within the project site and also recommended a massive afforestation campaign to create a green belt around the airport and the hills that were razed for soil. The report has suggested that the promoters take the onus to supply drinking water in the parched areas in the vicinity and has highlighted the need for a rainwater harvesting system at the airport.
National Green Tribunal Stay
On 2 April 2013, The National Green Tribunal granted an interim stay on the project banning any construction at the site. It also stayed the Kerala Government's order to convert the 500 acres of land for industrial purpose until further orders. The Tribunal set aside its order on 30 April 2013, dismissing the petition filed by the Aranmula Heritage Village Protection Action Council challenging various decisions related to the project including industrial area notification for the project and the no-objection certificate given by the Kerala Government.
The Tribunal had pronounced the stay in response to a petition that stated that the construction of the airport was in violation of the provisions of the Kerala Conservation of Paddy and Wet Land Act, 2008, the Kerala Land Reforms Act, 1963 the Environment Protection Act, 1986 and the Land Acquisition Act. The petition stated that the No Objection Certificates and Permissions were obtained by misrepresentation of facts and that clearance was obtained on the grounds that there was no paddy cultivation for the past 10 ten years, while the State Government and local bodies have been distributing funds during the last 10 years for paddy cultivation in all areas except those where water-logging had occurred across the wet lands and paddy fields. It also stated that the proposed area of 500 Acres notified to be acquired for the construction of Airport. contains expanses of paddy fields and wet lands which were to be preserved by the State Government.
The airport project was given environmental clearance by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, New Delhi on 19 November 2013.
Land Reform Act 1961
On 5 May 2013, The Kozhencherry Taluk Land Board declared a total of 340 acres of land in the district as excess land on the basis of the Kerala Land Reforms Act of 1961, which pegged the land holding limit for individuals at 15 acres. The 340 acres, including 232 acres belonging to the airport site, were to be absorbed into the land bank of the State Government. The sale of land originally owned by K.J. Abraham of Kozhencherry to the promoters of the project had also been rendered null and void by the order. Mr. Abraham, the Chairman of the Pathanamthitta based Mount Zion Group, was facing legal action for possession of land far exceeding the 15-acre limit prescribed by the Kerala Land Reforms Act.
The order was stayed within five days by the Kerala High Court which considering a petition filed by Abraham seeking to quash the order of the land board. Abraham contended that the move of the land board authorities was illegal as the land was owned by two charitable societies and hence not under the purview of the cited Land Act.
Economic feasibility of the project
The Enviro Care report states that the Aviation market in the state of Kerala grew faster than the rest of the nation which is one of the fastest growing aviation industries in the world. The government's partial open sky policy has led to many overseas players entering the market and the industry has been growing both in terms of players and number of aircraft. The all India Year on Year air passenger traffic growth rate was 11% in 2003–04, 22% in 2004–05, 24% in 2005–06, 31% in 2006– 07 and 21% in 2007–08. In 2008–09 the passenger traffic showed a negative growth rate of 6.85% as a repercussion of the global recession, but rebounded in 2009–10 with 15% growth and the growth rate in the year 2010–11 was 16%.
As compared to the national air passenger growth, the three International Airports in Kerala, (Cochin, Thiruvananthapuram and Calicut) put together showed a significant increase. The Air passenger growth rates for these three Airports are 31.28% in 2006–07, 23.74% in 2007–08, 3.15% in 2008–09 (the period of recession), 11.66% in 2009–10 and 10.23% in the year 2010–11.
The proposed Airport would provide transport infrastructure to pilgrims who wish to travel by air to Sabarimala, the second largest pilgrim center in India with annual pilgrims of around 60 Million (as per Government data for the year 2011), The airport site is an hour's drive away from the temple town and also close to other tourist destinations such as Kumarakom, the backwaters of Alappuzha, the high ranges of Kumily, and the Thekkady tiger reserve. The airport is expected to serve Central Travancore region, comprising parts of five districts in Kerala state namely Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha, Kottayam, Idukki and Kollam. Out of the foreign and domestic tourists' arrival to Kerala, these five districts together account for about 21 per cent of foreign tourists and 14 percent of domestic tourists.
- A Forecast of Indian air traffic has concluded that the domestic passenger throughput would grow at an average annual rate of around 12% between FY-12 and FY-17. The domestic passenger throughput is expected to touch around 209 million by FY-17 from 106 million in FY-11. Similarly, international passenger throughput is estimated to grow at an average annual rate of 8% to reach 60 million passengers by FY-17 from 38 million in FY-11.
- Global comparison of air travel penetration shows that India (at 0.04 air-trips per capita per annum, i.e., 4 out of 100 are travelling by air every year) stands far behind the developed countries like US and Australia (2 air-trips per capita per annum). China’s domestic traffic is five times that of India despite having a population just 10% larger. There is significant growth potential as high as 50 times for the Indian civil aviation industry as the economy grows, disposable incomes rise and the value of time becomes more precious.
- Even though Kerala has only 2.75% of the overall population of India, the International aircraft movement in Kerala is 15.28% of overall international aircraft movement of India in the year 2011–12.
- During the year 2011–12, the total number of air passengers to Kerala is 9,742,000 compared with 162.3 million air passengers throughout India.
- Air Traffic in Kerela has multiplied 5 times in the last 8 years, increasing from 2 million to 10 million passengers.
- Kochi, Trivandrum and Kozhikode Airports in Kerala are ranked as the 7th, 11th and 13th busiest airports in the country respectively.
- In Kerala, air traffic is evenly spread over the 3 existing airports unlike its neighbouring three states of Tamil Nadu,Telangana and Karnataka where one airport viz. Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore caters to 80% of the air traffic of the entire state.
Demand side analysis
The NRI population in the influential zone is about 378,726 against Kerala's total of 2,734,205 and Keralites who have migrated to other states are about 580,204 against the Kerala total of 1,922,483. The total foreign tourists arrival in the year 2010 to the influential zone is 138,445 (which is about 21% of the total foreign tourist arrival in Kerala). In the same period domestic tourists were 1,203,310 (which is about 14% of the total domestic tourist arrival in Kerala).
The Airport project is being promoted by the KGS Group which is involved in real estate development and construction, infrastructure development, healthcare and engineering. The Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group has a 15 per cent stake in the group's flagship company, KGS Developers Ltd. Reliance ADAG is also an equal partner in three of the township projects that KGS is planning in Chennai.
Protests against the project
Various local social and environmental organisations are leading an agitation against the Airport project saying that it would destroy many of the characteristics that qualify Aranmula as a heritage village by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage.
Prominent personalities like V. R. Krishna Iyer and Congress leaders V. M. Sudheeran, Sugathakumari, Peelipose Thomas, Sarala Devi have come out to support an agitation against the project Aranmula Heritage Village Action Council patron, Kummanam Rajasekharan and Aam Aadmi leader Sreeranganathan have threatened to disrupt the construction work if it were to commence as announced by KGS group citing that the local public had no other way but to resort to a confrontationist approach. He said the Council was protesting not against the airport or development but against the illegal filling of water streams, wetlands and paddy fields at the site whilst also blocking some of the major tributaries of the river Pampa especially since many estates and plantations with expired leases were available in the Chandanappally, Kodumon, Perunadu, Lahai and Cheruvally regions located in Pathanamthiita.
The protesters contend that the airport that KGS Group intends to construct an airport city or Aerotropolis that requires more than 3,000 acres of land and that such a large project would cause irreparable and devastating damage to the environment and ecosystem at Aranmula. Using satellite imagery of the site, the Aranmula Heritage Village Action Council to emphasized that approximately 3,000 families will have to be evicted. Dr. V. S. Vijayan, former Chairman of the Kerala Biodiversity Board that conducted an independent study in Aranmula, stated that the report prepared by Enviro Care was full of incorrect data.
On 12 February 2013, CPI leader Atul Anjan, besides CPI(M) leader M. M. Mani alleged that Defence Minister A. K. Antony was favouring the project owing to the involvement of Robert Vadra. The land purchased by the KGS Group was owned by Mr. Abraham Kalamannil, Chairman of the Mount Zion Group Pathanamthitta, also has come into controversy. A lot of villagers have been suing Mr. Kalamannil for forging their Documents and illegally grabbing their lands. The local agitation groups have demanded an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation and other Central agencies into the corruption and violation of laws in connection with the private airport project at Aranmula. A large scale corruption including unaccounted money and power plays is doubted at site. KGS Aranmula International Airport Ltd. and the Kerala State Advocate-General had stated before the National Green Tribunal that Rs. 4 billion had been spent on the project. The local community is highlighting that the account heads on the project spent and project revenue to the tune of 400cr is not clear and not correct as claimed. Also the promoter had claimed 600 acres in its possession for setting up the airport against the actual possession of about 250 acres at the time of submitting application to the Union Ministry for NOCs.
Despite these protests, the local MP Anto Antony, Parliament of India Deputy Chairman P. J. Kurien, MP and MLA Sivadasan Nair have claimed that there is strong support among local people for the airport. On 14 February 2013, Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy and revenue minister Adoor Prakash justified the state government's decision to pick up a 10% equity in the project, and claimed that the airport would be a significant addition to the infrastructure of the region.
- List of airports in India
- List of international airports in India
- Ministry of Civil Aviation (India)
- Airports Authority of India
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- http://www.kgsaranmulaairport.com/overview.html airport overview
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- http://www.thehindu.com/news/states/kerala/krishna-iyer-opposes-airport-at-aranmula/article4087982.ece. V.M.Sudheeran.V.S.Achuthanandan,opposes
- "Article". Janmabhumi. 12 February 2013. Retrieved 12 February 2013.[dead link]
- "Airport project: council demands probe by Central agencies". The Hindu (Chennai, India). 8 May 2013.
- Website of KGS Aranmula International airport Pvt. Ltd.
- Website of Aranmula Heritage Village Action Council
- Website to aggregate latest news on Aranmula Airport