Kerala Govt's reluctance to revise feasibility report may prove costly for Sabarimala airport plan

Thiruvananthapuram: The  Kerala Government's inaction in timely intervening and setting right the lapses contained in the techno-economic feasibility report (TEFR) prepared by the private consultant Louis Berger has played a part in the decision of the aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to reject the proposal for the Sabarimala greenfield airport at Cheruvally Estate.

It is reliably learnt that before sending it to the DGCA, the government knew that the feasibility report was not comprehensive and there were shortcomings in it, but it did not do anything to rectify it.

It was in 2017 that the contract for preparing the feasibility report was given to Louis Berger for Rs 4.6 crore. The deadline given to submit the report was four months. But they submitted the report only in 2018. The report was only 38 pages.

The report was prepared by the consultancy firm without even visiting the proposed site and making a detailed study. This visit could not be carried out by the team because of the denial of entry to the site because of the legal disputes involved over the ownership of the land.

The consultant submitted the report only in November 2018. During this stage, the Kerala State Industrial Corporation (KSIDC) paid Rs 1 crore to the consultants. For another 15 months, the government sat over the report.

It was only in February 2020, the Chief Minister called a high-level meeting to discuss the issue. At the meeting, there was criticism that the report was not comprehensive and it contained many loopholes. But still, the government did not do anything to revise the report or cancel the contract of the consultants for carrying out further work. The same feasibility report was submitted to the Union Civil Aviation Ministry. This has led to the rejection of the report by the DGCA.

No need for a table-top runway

The State Government would allay the apprehension of the DGCA that a table-top runway like the one existing in Mangalore and Calicut airports was being planned at the site. 

According to government sources, there is no such need as the area proposed is not fully hilly. There are only small hills and troughs. But that can be reclaimed and made even. So, the four sides of the runway will not have any sloppy or trough areas.

The TEFR states that there are limitations in the proposed area for ensuring the required length and breadth for the runway as prescribed in rules. Hence a tabletop runway will have to be constructed on the lines of Mangalore and Kozhikode airports, the DGCA noted.    

Sabarimala Airport Project

First stage of construction: 2025-2035

Second stage of construction: 2036-2048 

Total estimated cost: Rs 1960 cr

Total cost now (with 5% escalation every year): Rs 2,250 cr

Cost for purchase of land: Rs 570 cr

Cost for land reclamation: Rs 723 cr

Runway length: 2,700 meters

Likely Number of Passengers 

In 2030:  24.5 lakh

In 2050:  64.2 lakh

Operating Cost 

2025: Rs 52 cr 

2050: Rs 524 cr

Expected Turnover 

2025: Rs 122 cr

2050: Rs 1,662 cr

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