Social activist Medha Patkar met residents affected by the Chennai airport expansion project here in Manapakkam on Wednesday.

After meeting the residents at a gathering in Manapakkam, she told mediapersons the State government must denotify the lands acquired from the residents for the expansion work, since Airport Authority of India (AAI) had said that some of the allotted land might not be needed.

“Though the experts have told that so much of land was not required, the denotification process must not take 17 months. It is the question of undoing the wrong. Since it is prime land, no one including the State, which is also becoming the biggest land owner in India today, would like to let go of its possession,” she said.

In October 2007, the State government notified 1,069.99 acres of land in five villages — Manapakkam, Kolapakkam, Tharapakkam and Kovur — for building a parallel runway for the Chennai airport. But, in November 2011, AAI issued a letter to the government, stating a parallel runway might not be needed, as suggested in a report by International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and that some of the earmarked land could be denotified.

Ms. Patkar plans to meet the chief secretary and raise the issue with her.

“Over 5000 people have been facing problems as the lands have not been denotified. Many people who want to sell or mortgage their property are unable to do it. Plus, there are several people who continue to pay loans for their houses whose construction stopped a long time back when the government notified the land,” said Brindha Brighton, secretary of United People’s Forum for Survival.

Many like V. Baskaran were affected because their agricultural lands in Kovur are yet to be denotified. Baskaran (44), whose family has been cultivating paddy in Kovur for five decades now, says he has been severely affected. “Since we don’t have a choice, we cultivate paddy in two acres. So, instead of the over 100 bags that we used to get during harvest, we now have only 70 bags,” he said.

Forty-year-old Gayathri Thyagarajan, who bought a 1050-sq. ft house for Rs. 950 in Manapakkam in 2005, said that it was her family’s sole property and that they had been paying loans for years now. “We don’t know if we are owners of this property. Where will we go if we have to leave this house? The compensation offered was not even one fourth of the investment made,” she said.