Turbulence hits Sabarimala airport project, DGCA gives thumbs down to Cheruvally Estate site

New Delhi: The Kerala government which is keen to develop a new airport at Cheruvally Estate, near Erumeli, in Kottayam district, has included it in a list of projects to be fast-tracked as it is estimated to help the Sabarimala pilgrims. In a dampener of sorts, the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has now concluded that the sprawling project site is not suitable for constructing an airport.

The DGCA has communicated its assessment to the Union Civil Aviation Ministry, which had earlier sought the former’s views on the Technical Feasibility Report prepared by the Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC) and US company Louis Berger Consulting Pvt Ltd.

DGCA came out with scathing criticism saying that the report, which has not even been signed by the KSIDC and the US company, lacks credibility.

There are limitations in the proposed area for ensuring the required length and breadth for the runway as prescribed in rules. Hence a table top runway will have to be constructed on the lines of Mangalore and Kozhikode airports, the DGCA noted.

Moreover, the proposed Sabarimala airport will affect two adjoining villages. Though the report mentions about two zones inhabited by people, it does not provide actual data regarding the number of people who are staying in these areas, the top aviation regulator found.

Two other close airports a handicap
The DGCA has pointed to the possibility of signals from the Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram airport air traffic control entering the area of the proposed airport.

The distance between Cochin International Airport and the Trivandrum International Airport to the proposed airport at Sabarimala is 88 km and 110 km, respectively. Usually permission is not granted for a new airport within a 150 km area. Limitations in runway development and air control will have to be factored in if the project is implemented.

Cheruvally Estate is 50 km from Pamba, the gateway to Sabarimala which houses the Lord Ayyappa Temple.

DGCA queries will be answered soon: Special Officer
V Thulasidas, special officer of the Sabarimala airport project, has said that the reply to the questions raised by DGCA and Airports Authority of India is being drafted.

A meeting was held with the consultancy the other day, he said.

The reply prepared by it would be vetted and sent to the Civil Aviation Ministry soon. The same procedure was followed in the Kannur airport as well, Thulasidas added.

He said the project has received the nod from the Defence Ministry.

Meanwhile, the Kerala Government sources said that if required they are prepared to make changes in the design and the same would be conveyed to the central government.

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