Kottayam: The proposed Sabarimala airport to be constructed at Cheruvally Estate, near Erumely, could become a reality in three years. V Thulasidas, who has been reappointed as the special officer of the project, hopes to get the Union Civil Aviation Ministry nod for the project soon. With Thulasidas, who excelled as the Special Officer and Managing Director of Kannur Airport and former chairman of the Air India, at the helm even cynics could be convinced that the project is set to take off. He also functioned as the joint secretary in charge of the Air Force in the Defence Ministry and the president of the Aeronautical Society of India,
Excerpts of an interview Thulasidas gave to Manorama.
What is the current status of the project?
The airport can be completed within three years if the works can be started by the next year-end.
What about the runway?
The longest runway in Kerala will be built here. The 3,500-meter runway will be in the east-west direction.
How is the soil testing proceeding? Could you answer detailed queries from the Centre in this regard?
Soil testing is the first step in constructing any airport. Earlier, another consultancy was appointed for the purpose. There were anomalies in their reports. I could detect it when I took charge. That time the Centre asked about it. We have given answers. We have arrived at an understanding with the estate owners regarding soil testing. We are getting good support from them.
The ownership of the land has been challenged in the court?
It’s the Revenue department that should settle all the matters regarding land ownership. I’m entrusted with matters regarding the construction of an airport. In Kannur too, it was Kinfra that looked after all the affairs relating to land acquisition. Here, it’s being done by the KSIDC (Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation).
Is the airport construction intended to be carried out on a public-private partnership basis?
Yes. Like that of Kochi and Kannur. It will be the private parties who do the investment. In Kannur, there are over 8,000 investors. Likewise, we are confident many investors will turn up for the project in Kottayam. The company will be registered as soon as we receive the nod from the Centre. Thereafter, we should find the funding resources, before floating the tender and starting the construction activities. All these will happen in six to 12 months. If we go by the Kannur project, all the construction activities can be completed in three years after commencing the work.
What are the highlights of the Sabarimala airport project?
The airport will benefit the natives of Pathanamthitta, Kottayam, Alappuzha, and Idukki the most. It’s just 40 km from Kottayam. Also, the residents of certain districts in Tamil Nadu too can quickly reach the airport. There is a big scope for pilgrimage tourism linked to Sabarimala, Erumeli, and Maramon.
The project will boost the potential of tourism destinations like Kumarakom, Munnar, Thekkady, Vagamon, and the like. Further, it will ease and facilitate the export of spices and tea, besides other agricultural products. Also, it will pave the way for setting up centres for churning out value-added products of these commodities.
The region is also the base of a lot of Non-Resident Keralites (NRKs). The airport project will benefit them immensely.