New questions have been raised over certain reported inconsistencies in the speech made by President Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday announcing the in-principle approval for the proposed greenfield airport project at Aranmula in Kerala.
Mr. Mukherjee’s address to the joint sitting of Parliament said: “My government has given in-principle approval for setting up a greenfield airport at Aranmula in Kerala, apart from airports at Navi Mumbai, Mopa and Kannur.”
However, an official release issued by the Press Information Bureau on March 9, 2011, quoting a reply speech by the then Civil Aviation Minister Vayalar Ravi in the Lok Sabha, contradicts the statement in the President’s speech.
Mr. Ravi had categorically stated that the “Government of India has granted ‘in-principle’ approval for setting up of a greenfield airport at Mopa in Goa in March 2000, to the State Government of Goa.”
Regarding the airport project at Navi Mumbai, the statement said the “in-principle approval for setting up of a new greenfield airport at Navi Mumbai through public-private partnership has been granted to the Government of Maharashtra in July 2007.”
According to Mr. Ravi, the “in-principle approval for setting up of a greenfield airport at Kannur was granted to the Government of Kerala in February, 2008.”
Another reply made by Mr. Ravi in the Rajya Sabha on December 15, 2011 said, “so far, the Government of India had given in-principle approval for 15 new greenfield airports in the country,” that include those in Mopa and Navi Mumbai.
Various environmental organisations, people’s action groups, and socio-environmental leaders in Kerala have taken exception to the proposed private airport project in Aranmula, which requires large-scale conversion of paddy fields and wetland.
The promoters of the private airport too are facing legal issues. The District Collector has already initiated steps to take over 132 ha of excess land in their possession and for cancellation of the mutation of the land. The State Land Board as well as the Legislative Committee on Environment too had found serious irregularities and violation of important Acts made in the name of the airport project, which could bring about disastrous socio-environmental implications in the Pampa river basin.
P. Prasad, Communist Party of India (CPI) leader and a close associate of Medha Patkar, social activist, sees a crucial role played by the Prime Minister’s Office for including the Aranmula airport project in the Presidential address. “It is an irony that the proposed Aranmula airport, which is yet to get environmental clearance from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, is the lone development project that has found a place in the draft of the Presidential address,” the CPI leader’s statement alleged.
Sugathakumari, poet and social activist, said “the anti-food security, anti-water conservation, and anti-people project violated as many as nine important laws and the people would oppose it with all their might.”