The process of awarding the engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contract for the Kannur international airport will now get expedited with the Union Ministry of Forests and Environment granting the much-awaited environment clearance for the fourth international airport of the State near Mattannur on Friday.

For the State as well as project officials, it was an anxious wait as the expert appraisal committee had cleared the papers at its meeting in Sion on March 25. Since then, the papers had been with the Ministry awaiting clearance.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy confirmed in New Delhi on Friday that the environment clearance was finally granted by the Ministry.

The clearance has enthused the project officials, who are busy with awarding the EPC (Package I) for the airside, which includes complete earthwork, provision of new runway, taxiway, apron, ground lighting, and associated infrastructure including perimeter wall and operational wall.

As 30,421 trees have to be cut down for the airport project, the expert committee had said that necessary permission from the competent authority should be obtained. Compensatory tree plantation on a 1:3 ratio should be carried out and approval of the Forests Department/wildlife warden should be sought for the proposed peacock conservation plan.

Rehabilitation and resettlement of 123 families have been recommended. Corporate social responsibility activities such as medical schemes, education, and infrastructure facilities should be carried out.

Eight companies, including two Indian, have taken the Request for Proposal (RFP) documents for the EPC and pre-bid meetings have been held. The last date for submitting the technical and financial bids is August 19 and the EPC will be awarded by September, official sources told The Hindu.

Kannur International Airport Limited (KIAL), which has got a new Managing Director, G. Chandramouli, has worked out a time schedule to ensure that the first flight from Kannur takes off in December 2015. The airport is coming up in Keezhallur grama panchayat and Mattannur municipality at an estimated cost of Rs.1,130 crore. Of the 2,000 acres notified for the airport project, 1,278 acres has been acquired.

A consortium led by Hong Kong-based AECOM Asia Pvt. Ltd. and including AECOM India Pvt. Ltd. and CRISIL is the project consultant.

KIAL sources said the EPC (Package II), which will include an integrated terminal building, air traffic control tower, and technical block, will be announced later.