Expansion of Calicut airport may not be a smooth ride

Same proposal suggested five years ago could not be implemented due to various reasons

October 19, 2021 06:48 pm | Updated 06:48 pm IST - Kozhikode

The decision of a high-level meeting attended by two ministers to acquire 248.75 acres of land for the extension of the tabletop runway and the development of Calicut International Airport appears to be easier said than done as the same ambitious proposal suggested five years ago could not be implemented due to various reasons.

The meeting, held on the basis of a directive of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan at the Calicut airport on Monday, decided to acquire 96.5 acres for runway expansion, 137 acres for the construction of a new terminal, and 15.25 acres for car parking even as it rejected a recommendation of the Centre to look for another suitable plot of land for developing a new airport in Kozhikode district.

Ministers P.A. Mohamed Riyas and V. Abdurahiman; MPs M.K. Raghavan, M.P. Abdussamad Samadani, and E.T. Mohammad Basheer; MLAs T.V. Ibrahim and P. Abdul Hameed; Malappuram District Collector V.R. Premkumar and Calicut Airport Director R. Mahalingam took part in the meeting.

Sources said the meeting was held following a letter by Union Minister of Civil Aviation Jyotiraditya Scindia to the Chief Minister in September urging the State government to hand over 152.5 acres of land to the Airports Authority of India (AAI) for the expansion of the airport. Out of this, 137 acres would be used for development of apron, construction of new terminal building and cargo complex and remaining 15.25 acres would be used for car parking, according to the letter.

Five years ago, the Centre and the State had come up with a plan with the AAI even committing to fund ₹1,000 crore for the development of the airport. Subsequently, the Government tasked the Collectors of Malappuram, Kozhikode and Palakkad to identify hills in those districts to be razed for filling the valley that surrounds the airport.

However, the plans of the Government went awry with environmentalists decrying the decision to permit unbridled quarrying activities. Thus, following the floods in 2018, the order to raze hills had to be cancelled and the project failed to take off, said sources.

The Calicut airport, located in 380 acres at Karipur, has a tabletop terrain with a steep fall on both sides. Filling the valley entailed a whopping amount of money and enormous manpower, added the sources.

The immediate requirement is acquisition of land for setting up a multi-level parking in front of the old domestic terminal building. Another was the resumption of operation of wide-bodied aircraft which had been suspended after the Air India Express crash on August 7, 2020 that claimed the lives of 21 persons, said the sources.

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