The proposed second airport near Chennai and the expansion of the existing airport will boost the economic activity in Tamil Nadu and bring in new investments, according to Minister for Industries Thangam Thennarasu. He spoke of the government’s plans in an interview to The Hindu. Excerpts:
Q / Tell us about your recent meeting with Minister for Civil Aviation Jyotiraditya Scindia
A / This was a completely business-oriented meeting. We expressed concerns over acquisition of land (especially Defence land). The Union Minister said he would speak to the Ministry of Defence for speedy clearance. We also discussed developing other airports in Tamil Nadu and the second airport in Chennai.
Q / Everyone expected the second airport to come up at Pannur, but Parandur has been chosen. What was the key reason?
A / The Airports Authority of India (AAI), in its pre-feasibility report, said Parandur and Pannur were the feasible sites. Pannur has more habitations, industries and potential obstacles than Parandur. Also, the cost of land acquisition is less in Parandur. The decision in favour of Parandur was taken by the Tamil Nadu government on a weighted matrix of scoring for various parameters considered.
Q / How does the government intend to enhance connectivity and infrastructure for those who want to get to Parandur? There are concerns that it should not be like Bengaluru where the airport is far away...
A / This airport will take some time to be functional. Before that, the Tamil Nadu government will ensure that the required infrastructure is put in place to make travel easier for commuters.
A / The Parandur airport project site is abutting on the proposed Chennai-Bengaluru Expressway. Road connectivity to the proposed airport from the city will be the fastest. The proposed Poonamalle Metro Rail station is around 30 km from the airport site. Despite being away from the city, the Bengaluru airport is the third largest in India, proving that distance will not prevent people from using the airport.
A / Most of the airports, both in India and across the globe, are located away from the city. For example, Seoul (50 km away), Jerusalem (55 km), Milan (54 km) and Kuala Lumpur (60 km). In a nutshell, distance will not be a problem.
Q / You discussed with the Union Minister about restarting flight services in Salem. Can you share some details?
A / The Salem airport was included in the UDAN regional airport development scheme. The response was good, and air services were started by some regional airlines.
A / The slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic impacted these airlines. With industrial development in this region, the Tamil Nadu government is making all efforts to commence operations at the Salem airport. Once it is operational, it would boost the economic activity in this region.
Q / What about the plans of expansion of the Madurai, Thoothukudi and Coimbatore airports?
A / The Tamil Nadu government is acquiring land on its own in Madurai and Thoothukudi for the expansion of the airports.
A / With more industries looking to invest down south, we want to focus more on the Thoothukudi and Madurai airports. We are looking at night-landing facilities there.
A / Around 256.35 hectares of land is being acquired at a cost of around ₹200 crore for the expansion of the Madurai airport. In Thoothukudi, around 288.55 hectares is being acquired at a cost of around ₹45 crore. And 260.65 hectares is being acquired at a cost of ₹2,000 crore in Coimbatore.
Q / There are several vacant airstrips in Tamil Nadu. How many such airstrips do we have and how does the government intend to make the best use of them?
A / There are 17 airstrips. The unused airstrips are Kayatharu, Ulundurpettai, Cholavaram, Kanadukathan, Neyveli and Kovilpatti. The remaining are utilised either by AAI or the Indian Armed Forces. Kayatharu, Ulundurpettai and Cholavaram are with the IAF. The Neyveli airstrip is with NLC. The Tamil Nadu government is planning to utilise the Kovilpatti airstrip for establishing flight training organisations. The process has been initiated. The Kovilpatti airstrip is in disuse. TIDCO is working on a plan for it. The other airstrips which are used include Tambaram, Arakkonam, Peelamedu, Sulur, Salem, Uchipuli and Hosur.
Q / Chief Minister M.K. Stalin said it is imperative for Chennai to have a new airport to meet its demands, attain the goal of making Tamil Nadu a $1-trillion economy and make Chennai the best destination for investments in Asia. As the Minister for Industries, how do you think airports can fuel the economic growth of a State?
A / A good airport is the first impact on a potential investor. We are on the right path when it comes to the Chennai greenfield airport. It can fuel the growth of the entire State. Enhanced connectivity to Madurai will bring in more investments in information technology. With a port at Thoothukudi, more flight connectivity will be an advantage. An airport at Karur will support textiles and other businesses in the neighbouring districts. According to a study by the International Civil Aviation Organization, ‘Economic benefits of civil aviation: Ripples of prosperity,’ the output and employment multipliers of aviation are 3.25 and 6.10 respectively. This means every ₹100 spent on air transport brings about benefits worth ₹325 to the economy and every 100 direct jobs result in 610 jobs in the economy as a whole.