Thursday, September 11, 2008

Kerala seeks central nod for Kannur airport

Kerala Chief Minister A K Antony will meet Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and officials of the civil aviation ministry soon to exert pressure on the central government to sanction the state's fourth airport at Kannur.

Though the Kannur airport project has been pending with the ministry for some years, it has not yet received central government's approval following objections from an expert civil aviation committee.

The project is now stuck in the civil aviation ministry after the committee recommended that a new airport in Kerala could not come up within a distance of 150 km of the Kozhikode airport.

Kerala has now three international airports -- Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode.

There has also been opposition from the business and political lobbies in Mangalore and Kozhikode against the airport.

They argue that an airport at Kannur will drive away many flights and related businesses from Kozhikode and Mangalore.

However, senior government officials disclosed that the chief minister himself would personally meet the prime minister to seek clearance for the proposed airport.

"The government of Kerala is serious about the airport project. For the development of the Malabar region, especially the tourism sector, an airport at Kannur is a necessity," a senior official of the Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation told rediff.com.

Already, the official said, the Antony government has put in a request with the civil aviation ministry, seeking an exemption from the rule that two airports cannot exist within a radius of 150 km.

Kannur airport was one of the major projects that the Antony government had showcased during the Global Investor Meet, which was held in Kerala in January this year.

The Kerala government wants the Kannur airport to be built by private entrepreneurs without any financial help from the Airports Authority of India. Already, the Leela Group that runs a chain of luxury hotels in the country, has put in a proposal before the state government seeking permission to bid for the project.

As per the proposal put in by the Leela Group chairman Captain Krishnan Nair, the group will be the chief promoter of the airport. The group, which will float a new company for the project, will also seek participation from international airport developers to give shape to the project.

Several prominent politicians, including the former chief minister E K Nayanar, a number of business groups and NRIs from north Kerala, especially those doing business in the Gulf countries, have been campaigning for the development of Kannur airport for many years now.

Nearly five years back, the state government began acquiring land for the airport at Moorkamparambu, some 20 km from Kannur.

While already some 300 acres of land has been acquired, the government plans to go ahead with the acquisition of another 1,200 acres only after the project gets clearance from the Centre.

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