‘NOC given to airport overlooking objections of Indian Navy’

The Aranmula Heritage Village Action Council (AHVAC) has accused Defence Minister A. K. Antony of “putting national security at stake” by taking “undue initiative” at the instance of Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P. J. Kurien, and Anto Antony, MP, for facilitating a ‘no objection certificate' to a private company for setting up an airport at Aranmula.

Addressing a press conference here on Wednesday, P. Induchoodan, K.Haridas and P.R. Shaji, action council leaders, alleged that the decision to grant NOC for the controversial project was taken at a high-level meeting chaired by the Defence Minister on August 12, 2011.

RTI act

The council leaders also distributed the copies of all relevant official documents obtained through the Right To Information Act in support of their arguments. A letter issued by the Directorate of Naval Air Staff and signed by D. S. Shekhawat, Commodore, PDNAS, dated October 8, 2010, categorically stated that “the establishment of a Greenfield Airport at Aranmula was not recommended by the Ministry of Defence, as this would have resulted in imposing severe restrictions on the availability of airspace for conduct of military flying at the Naval Air Station, INS Garuda, in Kochi.”

Civil airport

“The proposed airport would lie between two international airports in Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi, which are separated by 100 nautical miles (nm), apart from being in close vicinity of Naval Air Station INS Garuda (44 nm).

There are airspace restrictions already in place at the Naval Air Station due its proximity to the international airport in Kochi. In fact, all local flying areas North and North-West of airfield had to be sacrificed as a result of emergence of the international airport. The presence of another civil airport towards the south would further worsen these constraints adversely impacting on military flying operations / training profiles and exercises. It is also to be noted that the Local Flying Area for Naval Air Station, INS Garuda, extends till almost 10 nm from Aranmula,” the DNAS letter said.

“The Greenfield Airport has been envisaged with a runway length of 2,800 metres and would be capable of operating large wide bodied Code D aircrafts like the Airbus A-300. Flight profiles of these aircrafts arriving/departing from Aranmula would interfere with the Local Flying Area at INS Garuda and compromise the flight safety,” the letter goes on.

In his letter (Letter No. AA/GEN/o417/09/10, dated September 22, 2010) to the Defence Minister, the local MP had termed the objections raised by the Indian Navy as “silly technical reason,” which was not at all befitting to a people’s representative, the action council leaders alleged.

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