THIRUVANTHAPURAM: The major pilgrimage centre of Sabarimala is to have an airport of its own, making it the fifth in Kerala. The state has three commercial airports-- Kochi, Kozhikode, Thiruvanthapuram – plus one in Kannur that is about to open.
The Kerala cabinet met on Wednesday and decided to sanction construction of the Sabarimala airport at Cheruvally Harrisons Estate in Kanjirappally in Kottayam district.
The Sabarimala airport was recommended by a four-member committee led by Kerala revenue secretary P H Kurian.
Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan preferred to go in for an airport for the convenience of Sabarimala pilgrims and chose to abandon the Aranmula airport project - a proposal pursued by the Oommen Chandy government. Following this, a four-member panel was appointed to identify a suitable site for the project.
The proposed site, Cheruvally Estate – which was sold to the Believers Church by Harrisons Plantations – is a 2263 acre spread and lies adjacent to two national highways and five PWD roads. It is 48 km from the Sabarimala hill shrine and 113 km from Kochi.
However, the project is not likely to be easy to get going as the land is under dispute and a case is pending in the High Court. The government is of the view that the sale deal between Harrisons Plantations and Believers Church is not valid.
The government move to construct a Sabarimala airport at Cheruvally has already kicked up a row. Senior Congress leader and former revenue minister Adoor Prakash termed it as a loss to Pathanamthitta while BJP leader M T Ramesh alleged a hidden move to compensate the land value.