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Problems galore for expansion of airports in Tamil Nadu

The Tamil Nadu government has chalked out a plan to complete acquiring the land required for the expansion of six airports in the State but failed to take up assignment of land for the second airport as handling of the ever growing air traffic at the existing Meenambakkam airport is becoming unmanageable.

Despite repeated prodding by the Civil Aviation Ministry and the Airport Authority of India for the past several years, the state government has not taken steps to acquire land for the Second airport for Chennai city beyond saying there is no land available for the airport at Sriperumpudur. Land acquisition remained a major hurdle for the expansion of Coimbatore International airport including its runway.

Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami on Saturday reviewed the progress of expansion of various airports in Tamil Nadu and the land acquisition process involved, with top officials from the Civil Aviation Ministry and the Airports Authority of India (AAI), according to an official press release.

The additional land requirement for the expansion of Chennai, Coimbatore, Salem, Tiruchi, Madurai and Thoothukudi airports, and the progress of ongoing land acquisition were reviewed. The press release however did not mention the progress of land acquisition work at various airports, with some of them going on for several decades.

Once the airports are expanded, it will lead to the handling of more wide-body aircraft at these airports, which will in turn lead to easier mobility for the public and more employment and business promotion in these regions, Palaniswami said.

He wanted flight services started at Salem, Hosur, Neyveli and Ramanathapuram as well as look at the possibility of the Vellore airport becoming functional at the earliest.

As part of its bid to develop airports in small cities in the State, the AAI has undertaken various modernisation and upgradation works at the Tiruchi airport, such as the construction of a new domestic terminal building to handle peak-hour passenger traffic and conversion of the old terminal building into an international cargo terminal.

It has also taken up re-carpeting of the existing runway/taxiway at the Tuticorin airport. The press release however did not mention the fate of the second airport at Chennai and the progress of land acquisition work at Coimbatore airport for more than two decades. Not many international airlines call on Madurai airport though it is close to Malaysia and Singapore because of the restrictive policies pursued by the Civil Aviation Ministry.The Singapore airlines's budget airline wanted to land in Madurai airport five years ago but denied the right by the then Civil aviation Ministry.

The airport project at Hosur under Udan is facing rough weather from Bengaluru airport. The existing airport at Bengalaru has a problem with Hosur airport in Tamil Nadu since the latter is close to the electronic city which contributes substantially to the air traffic.

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