Monday, February 17, 2014

Land acquired for runway given back to residents- Times of India 18-Feb-2014

CHENNAI: The state government has de-notified 852.88 acres of land marked for acquisition to build a parallel runway on the western side of Chennai airport. In 2011, Airports Authority of India had declared that the land was not needed but the government had been dragging its feet since then on releasing the land. The order de-notifying the land, belonging to more than 900 families of Manapakkam, Gerugambakkam, Kolapakkam, Tharapakkam and Kovur, comes after residents moved the Madras high court, frustrated that three years of struggle and protests had not yielded results. The government order was issued a couple of days ago. The land, covering a largely residential neighbourhood, was earmarked for a parallel runway in October 2007 and a government notification issued. The immediate impact was that all development work was stopped. Construction of many houses was halted midway and many residents, while staying in rented accommodation, were forced to make their loan repayments for more than five years. With the land frozen, many residents had nothing to pledge or sell in case of emergencies. Now, all of them are elated. "It's a great relief that we have got our land back finally," said a resident. But the struggle was anything but pleasant. At the peak of the agitation, in early 2013, social activist Medha Patkar addressed a gathering of protesting residents and demanded that the government de-notify the land and hand it over to the resident. There were allegations that real estate firms which were eying the land were delaying the de-notification process. The trouble, residents said, began because of a mistake by AAI which demanded the land for the parallel runway project that had not been cleared by the regulatory authorities. Brindha Brighton, secretary of the United People's Forum for Survival, a movement that represents the affected families, said the parallel runway plan was dropped in 2011 after the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) ruled out the possibilities in this area. "Now we are relieved from all troubles. We hope that it doesn't happen again spoiling the livelihood of people," she said.

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