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TN to go ahead with greenfield airport in Parandur; to begin land acquisition

The government’s decision to go ahead with the land acquisition process comes amidst protests by villagers who don’t want to part with their farmlands to build the airport. Since the land to be acquired is surrounded by water bodies, villagers and environmentalists warn that going ahead with the project would lead to hydroecological problems and flooding in the new facility and in the area.
Last Updated : 20 December 2023, 17:06 IST
Last Updated : 20 December 2023, 17:06 IST

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Chennai: Notwithstanding protests from several quarters, the Tamil Nadu government has fast-tracked the process of building a swanky greenfield airport for Chennai in Parandur in neighbouring Kanchipuram district by appointing a special officer to oversee the land acquisition process for the ambitious project.

Narayanan, the District Revenue Officer (DRO), has been tasked to acquire 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 government’s decision to go ahead with the land acquisition process comes amidst protests by villagers who don’t want to part with their farmlands to build the airport. Since the land to be acquired is surrounded by water bodies, villagers and environmentalists warn that going ahead with the project would lead to hydroecological problems and flooding in the new facility and in the area.

“We will go ahead with the project. The DRO will now oversee the land acquisition process,” a top government source told DH. “We have to handle the resistance and ensure that the process is smooth,” the source said when asked about the protests from villagers.

To address the environmental concerns, the Government constituted a committee of experts, including from the IIT-M, to look into the concerns raised by villagers and to address issues like water flow. “The government will sit with the panel in about a weeks’ time to discuss their findings. The committee will suggest measures to preserve the flow of water and other related measures. We are open to implementing them,” the source added.

However, the measures are unlikely to cut the ice with the locals who demand complete scrapping of the project. 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 are also not acceptable to the villagers.

“The project will destroy 12 lakes, 17 ponds, and 15 puddles in the area. Why should you build an airport when you know it will get flooded? It will also wipe out agriculture in the village,” Elango, a villager, said. The villagers have been protesting against the project for the past 500 days.

Since Parandur is located right on the yet-to-be-opened expressway connecting Chennai with Bengaluru, the state government will ask the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to build an entry and exit ramp to allow smooth travel, the source added. Another official said the state government also plans to extend Metro connectivity till Parandur from Poonamallee on the outskirts of Chennai.

“We will also be looking at extending the railway network to Parandur from Thirumalpur railway station on the Arakkonam-Chengalpattu route. We will ensure that there is seamless connectivity from Chennai and the current airport in Meenambakkam to Parandur through every possible transport mode,” the second official added.

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 20 December 2023, 17:06 IST

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