‘Two international airports within 150 km’

The government machinery at all levels has failed to prevent promoters of the Aranmula greenfield airport from encroaching on government land and reclaiming paddy fields, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India has said.

The latest CAG report on ‘Land management by the Government of Kerala with special focus on land for Aranmula Airport and SmartCity, Kochi’, tabled in the Assembly on Tuesday, said the in-principle approval for the project was granted without verifying whether the developer had sufficient land and also the impact of the project on two other international airports within 150 km.

By accepting the equity of the company, the government had become a party to the illegal filling of land, encroachments, and environmental and ecological problems created by the developer.

Guidelines for granting licence framed under the Aircraft Act stipulated that a greenfield airport would not be allowed within an aerial distance of 150 km of an existing civilian airport. On granting a clearance, its impact on the existing airport would be examined.

The Central Board of Excise and Customs had concluded that there was no urgent need to construct the airport. The in-principle clearance was given without considering such aspects. No in-depth study was conducted before granting the clearance, the report said.

The temple mast of Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple, situated 905 metres from the proposed runway, was 30.08 metres high but the permissible elevation was 23.7 metres.

The four hills in the vicinity of the proposed airport would have to be removed. The rubber plantations and other trees on the hills would have to be cut. The government also failed to take action against illegal reclamation and encroachment on its land. The CAG wanted the government to conduct an independent inquiry into the cases of violations of the provisions of various Acts and rules and also the lapses that had occurred at all levels, including that of the Secretariat departments which supported such acts of the company.