|With the expansion of the existing Thiruvananthapuram international airport hanging fire owing to resistance to land acquisition, the government has set in motion processes for a new world class airport on the suburbs of the capital.|
Parassala on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border, Navaikulam on the border of Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam districts, both on the side of the National Highway 66, and Kattakada are the three sites identified for the proposed new airport that will need land to the extent of 800 hectares.
Scouting for the site of the new airport commenced on a war-footing when it became evident that acquisition of 32.8 hectares of land as envisaged in the master plan of the Airports Authority of India (AAI) in the 1990s will be a herculean task and in view of the saturation of the international airport's capacity over the past 10 to 15 years.
The off-city airport concept, in view of the hurdles faced by the flyers, operating airlines, AAI, businessmen, and the high price demanded by the land owners, had been put forward by the Trivandrum Agenda Task Force and Trivandrum Chamber of Commerce and Industry at a meeting attended by chairman of AAI Guruprasad Mohapatra in the capital last week.
As acquiring the 32.8 hectares of land is a diffcult task and in view of the demands of AAI Cargo Logistics and Allied Services Company Ltd (AAICLAS), a subsidiary of AAI, for setting up freight terminal, the meeting attended by Additional Chief Secretary, Revenue, P.H. Kurien and Additional Chief Secretary, Labour, Tom Jose was of the view that the off-city airport was the best viable solution.
Architect N. Mahesh who worked out the concept said acquiring 800 hectares will not be a headache as vacant land and estates were available and displacement will be minimum. Google maps had been used for identifying the locations.
Although the AAI has to take a call on the sites and carry out feasibility studies after the government’s nod, the odds are in favour of Parassala. The proximity towards upcoming Vizhinjam international deepwater seaport, four-lane road, light metro connectivity up to Neyattinkara and accessibility to those in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu are the factors.
The present airport will then become Defence airport catering to the needs of the Southern Air Command that has the headquarters in the State capital and the Coast Guard. The AAI is positive on the proposal mooted for off-city airport, chamber president S.R. Raghuchandran Nair said. Unlike other projects, the State has to bear the cost of land.
The premier airport of the State was set up as part of the Kerala Flying Club in 1932. Air India began international operations from the airport during the 1970s and it was upgraded to an international airport, the first to be located outside the metropolitan area, in January 1991. The new international terminal on the city side was commissioned overcoming several hurdles in 2011.