Straight Bat: Five Airports Too Many
Not only is it clear that they would only be serving a few groups with vested, ill-meant interests, and not the many, it will also cost the state dearly in terms of pollution, bad economics and social disparity. | Madan Sivadasan D
On Nov 21, 2016


Now Kerala is to get another airport, its fifth one, at Erumeli. The official version is that it would go a long way in bringing more pilgrims to Sabarimala. Land has been identified for it, 2000 acres belonging to the Believer's Church, which is mired in controversy with allegations of it being illegally encroached upon.

But why does the state need another airport? More importantly why is the government, irrespective of the ruling fronts, pushing for more international standard airports when there is no clamour from the public or experts for one? Is development really the motto here?

To bring forth development the present government has assured all support for budding entrepreneurs in the state, especially those in the IT sector. For this IT parks have been or are being built in every district. So far so good. The only problem is that these parks exist totally isolated from each other. Heavily congested narrow roads of inferior quality have resulted in time-distance between cities go frustratingly up as years go by. It takes about two hours to cover the 70 odd kilometres between Thiruvanathapuram and Kollam, about 6 hours to cover 220 kms to Kochi. The clamour for better road connectivity between cities and towns is ubiquitous. Still the government can't do much, because of high costs and unavailability of land .

Sabarimala is one of the major pilgrim centres in South India. Lakhs of devotees arrive at this holy abode every year. It is a fact that the forest shrine in the present condition is full up to the brim in its capacity to accommodate pilgrims.  To cater to more numbers major works on infrastructure development, water availability, pollution control, restrooms, lodging all need to be fast-tracked. Every year a fraction of these works are carried out and rest is left to God. It is too difficult, they say. The shrine is located in sensitive forestland, funds are sparse and land availability is a major hurdle

With the coming of the latest airport at Kannur, there will be no major town in the state that will be placed more than 150km away from an international airport, which only serve a small section of the population anyway. If a demand does exist, it is not for more airports but for more aeroplanes. Airports require high capital investment, vast tracts of land and almost always function as loss making entities. Sound and air pollution from airports cover more area than any other infrastructure project. And yet the government is all for more airports.

The new proposal for an airport at Erumeli follows the abandoning of the Aranmula airport plans. The push for it allegedly comes from the NRK sector, for which already three airports have been built and a fourth one is underway. It is interesting to note that members of the present ruling party had taken out numerous marches to the Kannur airport site alleging environmental impacts among other things. But the same party is now taking initiative for a fifth. When demands transcend logic it is clear that there is a vested interest behind it. Who or what could that be?

Annually gold in many hundreds of kilograms are seized at airports in the state, bulk of them from the Nedumbaserry airport, which so happens to be a public-private airport. It also happens that the one coming at Kannur will be private-public airport, so will be the one proposed at Erumeli. And the hundreds of kilograms of gold were those seized by officials. One can only imagine how many times of it are going un-seized. These airports are not meant to serve public and you need only to take a glance at the overblown prices of the most commonplace snack items at these airports to know that.

The coming of these airports won't help the state grow. Not only is it clear that they would only be serving a few groups with vested, ill-meant interests, and not the many, it will also cost the state dearly in terms of pollution, bad economics and social disparity. There is no use bringing the world closer home without having your own home in order. It is clear that more work needs to be done to get things in order within the state before indulging in needless extravaganzas like a fifth international airport.


Madan Sivadasan D (MSD)

Contributor to Yentha. He lives in Kochi but his heart beats for his home town Trivandrum. Absolutely no ambiguity on his views or in his writings
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London wth a population of 8Million has 6 international airports and numerous other small airports.if we need to be at par with developed economies infrastructure and air connectivity is of utmost improtance.Hence the government in its civil aviation policy clamouring for more airports and regional connectivity
Jith, on Nov 23, 2016 01:47:51 PM
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