Sabarimala airport size: Cost, traffic to influence Kerala government’s ultimate decision
It can fix if an international or small airport capable to handle small aircraft can be constructed at the site after taking into account parameters like the cost of the project and air traffic.
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Now the ball seems to be in the government’s court to decide whether Kerala requires a fifth international airport or a small one capable to handle light aircraft. The Louis Berger Consulting Company, which had been asked to conduct a techno-economic feasibility study and environmental impact assessment of the proposed greenfield airport at Sabarimala, has submitted its report.
An expert panel, including the aviation secretary, industries secretary, Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC) managing director, an aviation expert and a financial expert, that vetted the report on Thursday, decided to forward it to the government after seeking some changes in the draft report in two weeks.
According to sources, the draft report suggested the place identified for constructing a greenfield airport for Sabarimala pilgrims on the Cheruvally estate of Harrison Malayalam Plantation is suitable for an international airport.
The proposed site spread over 2,263 acres, mostly under rubber cultivation, is suitable to construct a full-fledged one. According to the priority of the government, the state can decide if an international or small airport capable to handle small aircraft can be constructed at the site after taking into account parameters like the cost of the project and air traffic.
Though the report is favourable, the political decision would be crucial as aviation experts are divided over constructing a full-fledged international airport at Sabarimala, which comes alive only when the pilgrimage season begins.
Sabarimala does not need a full-fledged airport: Expert
A Senior IAS officer and an aviation expert said Sabarimala does not require a full-fledged international airport. A small airport capable to handle lighter aircraft is enough to meet the demand of the pilgrims.
Further, the state can also make use of the UDAN scheme, the Regional Connectivity Scheme of the Central Government aimed at making air travel affordable, if it is a small airport meant to cater to the seasonal domestic pilgrims, he said.
Kerala is the only state in the country which has four international airports, including the soon-to-be-operational Kannur International Airport, which recently backed out of the UDAN scheme. The KIAL director board has decided to back out of the scheme after it came to the notice that the three-year exclusive monopoly for airlines companies in routes awarded to them under the UDAN scheme and Viability Gap Funding (VGF) of the state will affect the revenue generation of the airport constructed under PPP mode. Further, three other international airports in the state are on an expansion mode.
The state govt took the decision to construct a greenfield airport at Sabarimala in lieu of the abandoned Aranmula airport in the private sector
2,263-acre Cheruvally estate in Pathanamthitta has been zeroed in by the state for the airport
Rs 4.55 crore was recently sanctioned by the state govt as consulting fee to complete its pre-feasibility study