Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan laid the foundation stone for the Kannur international airport at the project site near here on Friday, attended by an array of dignitaries including Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation Praful Patel and witnessed by a massive turnout of people from different parts of the district.

The Chief Minister lit a traditional lamp to mark the commencement of the work for the Rs.1,100-crore airport project being developed here as a joint venture. Excitement of the people who gathered at the large venue on the Mattannur-Anjarakkady road knew no bounds as they greeted the dignitaries.

The Chief Minister said that the fourth airport in the State would mark the fruition of a much cherished dream of the people of North Malabar and would be a major venture for the development of the region and the State. An airport was not just a facility for air passengers, but it would also expand connectivity and travel facilities in an entire region. He said the airport would enhance the tourism potential of the region since North Malabar was not lacking in places of scenic beauty and historical importance.

The Chief Minister exuded hope that the new airport would boost export activities from the region, especially in textile, fishery and spice industries. He noted that the area had a largest concentration of people working in the Gulf countries. Demands for better travel facilities and prospects of such facilities had increased over the years. He said 14 per cent of the Malayalis working in Gulf countries are from North Malabar. The airport was expected to be beneficial to one-third of Gulf-bound passengers in Malabar, he added.

He said that the government would not allow the equity of the joint venture airport project to be concentrated on a few individuals. The airport was a symbol of North Malabar’s aspirations for development, he said adding that the government would also exert pressure on the Centre for a rail link to the new airport. Stating that the government was committed to the development of the State, he said efforts were also on to extend the National Waterway from Kottappuram to Neeleswaram.

Mr. Praful Patel, in his presidential address, said all pending problems of the State relating to air connectivity would be solved within a month. The Central government would do everything to ensure that the State got all the attention it deserves.

An array of leaders including State and Union Ministers attended the function. Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan welcomed the dignitaries. Union Minister of State for Home Mullappally Ramachandran, Union Minister of State for Railways E. Ahamed, Health Minister P.K. Sreemathi, Devaswom Minister Kadannappally Ramachandran, MPs K. Sudhakaran and P. Karunakaran, MLAs K.M. Mani, K.K. Shylaja, A.P. Abdullakutty, C.K. Padmanabhan, M. Prakashan, K.P. Mohanan and P. Jayarajan were among those present at the function.

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