The land acquisition for the expansion of Salem Airport has hit a roadblock.

Though Deputy Chief Minister M. K. Stalin has assured that State would extend all possible help to the Civil Aviation Ministry in acquiring the required land for the expansion, the district administration has found itself in a spot since villagers in the neighbourhood, mainly farmers, have raised a banner of revolt.

The all-weather operational airport, active from last year with a single ATR 72 carrier of Kingfisher Airlines operating in the Salem-Chennai sector, is strategically located at the Coimbatore-Chennai- Bangalore air route corridor offering a viable alternative to those who have business interests in the western belt of Tamil Nadu.

As potential traffic is ensured, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) has decided to expand the present runway of 6000 feet, which is suitable for ATRs and B-737-200 type of aircraft only with an apron for parking two carriers. Hence proposals have been submitted for acquiring an additional 563 acres of land abetting the airport so that big carriers such as AB 321 type could be operated.

In fact a recent communique from the Ministry of Civil Aviation says that the AAI has entered into an agreement with the State government for providing additional lands free of cost and other concessions. The AAI authorities have approached the District administration. In pursuant of this, the communique further points out that a joint survey by AAI with district revenue officials was undertaken on March 30 this year which was however “met with stiff opposition.”

The villagers had forcibly stopped the survey and even held the team of officials, hostage for sometime.

The AAI has pointed out that further progress in the project depends on the availability of revenue map to be prepared by the Salem district officials.

But farmers, weavers and people of surrounding village panchayats of Kamalapuram, Chikkanampatti, Thumbipadi and Pottiyapuram however claim that airport expansion would render them refugees on their own lands, which they say cannot permit. “Many have not received the compensation still when they gave their lands for establishing airport in 1988,” said a villager.

They have formed a Protection Committee of Affected People to fight against the land acquisition.

Keywords: Salem airport

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