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Locals of this TN village to seek "refuge" in Andhra as DMK govt proceeds with land acquisition to build airport

The villagers, who have been holding a protest in Ekanapuram and Parandur since August 2022, are planning to meet the District Collector of Chittoor in Andhra Pradesh seeking the administration’s help in “settling” there. The development comes at a time the DMK dispensation is preparing to acquire land for the new airport to meet the growing needs of Chennai and its neighbouring districts.
Last Updated : 17 June 2024, 13:50 IST

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Chennai: With their 700-day protest against acquiring their land for building a greenfield airport for Chennai falling in deaf ears, residents of Ekanapuram village have decided to “leave” their birth place in Tamil Nadu and “seek refuge” in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh.

The villagers, who have been holding a protest in Ekanapuram and Parandur since August 2022, are planning to meet the District Collector of Chittoor in Andhra Pradesh seeking the administration’s help in “settling” there. The development comes at a time the DMK dispensation is preparing to acquire land for the new airport to meet the growing needs of Chennai and its neighbouring districts.

“We exercised our democratic rights by protesting for nearly two years against the state government’s decision to set up an airport in Parandur. But our demands have not been met and we believe the government is going ahead with the project. We have no other option but to leave Tamil Nadu,” R L Elango, one of the coordinators of the protests, told DH.

“We are refugees in our country,” Elango said, adding that the villagers will meet Shan Mohan Sagili, Chittoor district collector, on June 24 and impress upon their situation. Elango said the villagers will highlight their plight to Sagili and ask him to forward their petition to Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu.

“We will have to wait and see what their (AP government) response is. We can’t do much here now as the process to acquire land has begun,” he added. The project will destroy 12 lakes, 17 ponds, and 15 puddles in the area, Elango claimed.

The government has announced that it will provide 3.5 times the market rate as compensation besides an alternate land for housing and a government job for each family affected by the land acquisition for the airport, but these promises were also not acceptable to the villagers.

Notwithstanding protests from several quarters, the government is going ahead with the task of acquiring over 3,700 acres of the total 5,746 acres of land needed for the airport which is expected to be built at a cost of Rs 20,000 crores. The state government owns the remaining 1,917 acres of land in Parandur, Ekanapuram, and surrounding villages that will play host to the airport.

The villagers had also opposed the airport on the grounds that the land to be acquired are surrounded by water bodies and warned that going ahead with the project would lead to hydro ecological problems and flooding in the new facility and in the area.

Elango said the villagers of Ekanapuram did boycott the April 19 Lok Sabha polls in protest against the airport, but their opposition hasn’t brought a change of heart in the government.

Government sources told DH that the administration was moving ahead with the land acquisition process and is also working with the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation to get the site clearance for the project. The source also said the government has also received a report from a committee of experts, including from the IIT-M, who looked into the concerns raised by villagers on issues like water flow.

“The suggestions of the committee will be accepted and we will work on that count,” the source said, adding that efforts are on to build an entry and exit ramp on the yet-to-be opened expressway connecting Chennai with Bengaluru, besides extending Metro connectivity till Parandur from Poonamallee on the outskirts of Chennai.

The idea of a greenfield airport for Chennai was first conceived in 2006 but was dropped after PMK, an ally of the then ruling DMK, red-flagged the location, Sriperumbudur. For about 15 years, the government couldn’t finalise a location till the DMK dispensation zeroed-in on Parandur in July 2022.

The existing Meenambakkam airport is struggling to handle the ever-increasing rush despite modernisation plans by the AAI.

Though the number of flights and the daily footfall have increased manifold over the years, the city is bereft of a swanky airport like the ones Bengaluru and Hyderabad boast of. The AAI has been expanding the terminal buildings in the existing airport to cater to the ever-increasing rush, but a new airport is long overdue.

Besides Chennai, Tamil Nadu has four operational airports— Tiruchirapalli, Madurai, Coimbatore, and Thoothukudi.

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Published 17 June 2024, 13:50 IST

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