Upping the ante in protest, a large number of residents of Keezhakurichi, Nathamadipatti and neighbouring areas, took out a rally in the City urging the government to give the proposed land acquisition for the next phase of the expansion of the Tiruchi Airport.
The renewed agitation comes after the Revenue authorities recently began a survey to delineate the lands to be acquired for the project. The land that is proposed to be acquired is spread over mainly Keezhakurichi, Nathamadipatti and a few neighbouring villages and residential colonies, right behind the airport.
The Airports Authority of India has sought about 430 acres of land for the proposed expansion, envisaging the extension of the runway to 12,500 feet from 8,000 feet so that the airport, one of the non-metro airports identified for development and expansion, would be able to handle big (Code-E) aircrafts such as B747-400 and B777-300. Originally, lands on both the Eastern and Western sides were proposed for acquisition.
But opposition from residents on the Western side resulted in a revised proposal which planned expansion on the Eastern side, behind the airport. The airport runway was proposed to be extended across the Uyyakondan River (as has been done in Chennai) behind the airport.
The villagers have turned restive as the authorities have started preliminary works to firm up the proposal. On Tuesday, a large number of the residents, including a huge contingent of women, took out a procession from the St.John’s Vestry Anglo Indian Higher Secondary School to the Collector’s Office campus where they staged a demonstration. They carried placards and raised slogans asking the government and the AAI to drop the move.
“Most of the land proposed to be acquired for the project is fertile cultivable lands spread over Keezhakurichi, Nathamadipatti and other villages. The airport expansion would destroy our irrigation and drainage courses. Our livelihood would be wiped off,” said Savarimuthu of Keezhakurichi.
A.Arul of Nathamadipatti said that large extents of land from the villages have already been acquired twice in the past for the airport development project and maintains villagers cannot afford to give up the source of their livelihood completely.
Villagers also contend that the airport expansion would render them without a direct link road to the City. The Nathamadipatti-Golden Rock Road, the main access road to the City, would face closure once the lands are taken over by the Airports Authority of India. Without this road, the villagers say that they would have to take a long detour.