Monday, July 21, 2008

Runway extension yet to get ministry nod

Runway extension yet to get ministry nod

CHENNAI: The state government is all set to hand over land for extension of the secondary runway at Chennai airport, but Airports Authority of India (AAI) is still awaiting the mandatory environment clearance from the union government.

The government has decided to hand over 130 acres by this month-end for extending the existing secondary runway by 1,400 metres. The AAI is also planning to kickstart preparatory work for the construction by the first week of next month.

However, there is still no sign of clearance from the union ministry of environment though the state revenue department and Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) held a public hearing last month and sent a report of the proceedings to the ministry.

"We are yet to receive environment clearance for the project which will help enhance aircraft handling capacity of the airport," airport director Dinesh Kumar said.

Meanwhile, the state government is ready to transfer the land to AAI as per schedule. "We will be handing over 130 acres acquired for the extension of the secondary runway by the end of this month," transport secretary Debendranath Sarangi said.

With only 10 more days to go for land transfer, the Airports Authority of India would need clearance from the union government before it could float tenders for preparatory works. Residents had been opposing the extension of the existing runway, saying it would curb the flow of Adyar river that runs through the airport land.

"The extension of the secondary runway will complicate the situation and will cause more floods in localities close to the airport. Excess water from Chemparampakkam river is let out into Adyar during the rains, causing floods on airport land every year," said Brinda Brighton, a resident of Manapakkam.

Construction work worth Rs 100 crore or more should not be carried out near a water body, residents of Manapakkam had pointed out during the public hearing on June 12, while opposing the project.

Sarangi said that priority was being given to the secondary runway, "but the proposed parallel runway (see graphic) will be taken up only in the next phase, as it is included as part of the larger expansion plan of the airport. The state government will sort out problems in acquiring land for the new runway."

The Supreme Court had dismissed petitions filed by the residents and also a builder challenging the Madras High Court verdict, thus clearing land acquisition for construction of a parallel runway.

TNPCB officials said that there would not be any hassle in obtaining environmental clearance for the secondary runway project because the runway was a non-industrial construction.

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