An airport proposal by the Union Civil Aviation Minister Anant Kumar in 1998 for the city of Chennai is taking shape but with a bit of limbo as agitation by villagers of Parandur continues for the 213th Day. M. Vetriselvan, an advocate with environmental organization Poovulagin Nanbargal said he was detained by the police near the Sriperumbudur tollgate and taken into preventive custody; the organization slammed the police and called the move undemocratic. “I was travelling to Ekanapuram for a public meeting to explain the legal issues regarding the second Airport.
The police stopped me, saying I cannot proceed to the village since I had not taken prior permission and detained me at a police station in Kancheepuram district in preventive custody. This is an undemocratic act, and I strongly condemn it,” he said (https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/parandur-airport-protest-environmental-activist-stopped-from-entering-village-even-as-protest-enters-200th-day/article66496584.ece)
G. Sundararajan of Poovulagin Nanbargal said it was atrocious that police prevented Mr Vetriselvan from speaking at a public meeting and detained him.
“Every individual has the right to protest and show solidarity with someone protesting for a cause. It is unconstitutional and against democratic principles that the police have stopped Mr Vetriselvan. We have seen various struggles and protests over the last 15 years, but we have never been barred from entering a place,” he added. (https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/parandur-airport-protest-environmental-activist-stopped-from-entering-village-even-as-protest-enters-200th-day/article66496584.ece)
This came when the state government announced in 2022 that a second airport would come up for Chennai at Parandur, stretching about 4,791 acres. 13 villages would be adversely affected, namely Nelvai, Nagapattu, Meleri, Gunagarambakkam, Ekanapuram, and Mahadevimangalam against this project as relocation would be imminent, which would damage the current livelihood that they have.
The Current Status of Chennai International Airport
The current city airport is located in Tirusulam, around 20 km Southwest of the city centre around the Meenambakkam Area, this is the 6th busiest Airport in the world and 49th in the Airport, but it has been in the ire of its infrastructure collapses despite its two modernization phases since 2013 which cost approximately 28,000 thousand million rupees and an expansion of the 1-kilometre area.
Despite all this, there have been several ceiling collapses and Glassdoor and Window breakages due to poor quality or improper design work.
Two incidents happened when 20 panels caved near the security area. Another incident took place 23 panels near the check-in counters at the terminal crashed due to heavy condensation.
After a ceiling collapse happened in late April 2015, bringing the total number of incidents to 50, which became a farce and initiated a massive discussion on social media sites.
Also, like most cities, there is always the perennial problem of traffic and congestion, with roads jammed with vehicles and urban settlements in the vicinity.
The Need for a New Airport: Greenfield Airport Proposal
In 1998, the Civil Aviation Ministry churned out a proposal to create an alternative Airport in Chennai due to the current Airport’s congestion and the increased traffic density.
What was proposed by the central government was then taken up by the State Government of Tamil Nadu in 2022; the main aim of creating this Airport would be it would not only be within the city limits on the outskirts, away from the hustle of the central city traffic but will facilitate economic development of the district of Kanchipuram.
The distance from Chennai to Parandur would be 70 km which would take 1 hour and 50 minutes to commute to the city and would be linked to the spur road under construction of the Bangalore -Chennai Expressway.
The proposal was made by a feasibility test conducted by the AAI (Airport Authority of India) and identified 4,791 acres of land for the Airport.
Proposed Environmental Threats
For most people living for generations, the only source of income is agriculture; If Airport is built, they do not know what their occupations would inevitably be. The villages have passed resolutions protesting the upcoming Airport. At one such public meeting at the Kancheepuram collectorate, angry villagers staged a walkout. (https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/why-are-villagers-against-chennais-second-airport-at-parandur/article65797407.ece)
Land Grabbing and village relocation is a problems that must be dealt with in this case.
Threats to Wetlands and Biodiversity.
If the Airport is constructed over 4,791.29 acres, 2,605 acres remain wetlands.
According to G. Sundar Rajan of Poovulagin Nanbargal, “ If this project were to be implemented, its impact on the environment and for the villages in the neighbourhood could be far worse than expected.” (https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/farmers-activists-say-proposed-airport-at-parandur-poses-serious-threat-to-environment/article66116080.ece).
He said most of the Kamban Canal runs through the airport project area. This canal connects 85 waterbodies, which could be disrupted due to the airport project. We will not only be encroaching on water bodies, but also the vast watershed area surrounding them will be reduced drastically (https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/farmers-activists-say-proposed-airport-at-parandur-poses-serious-threat-to-environment/article66116080.ece).
According to Raj Bhagat Palanichamy (GIS Expert), the Airport should not be looked at independent site plan but as a Master Plan of the region; the project site may not cause all the environmental issues and the subsequent commercial developments that may mushroom around it.
However, the Ministry for Industries will investigate the matter, and according to him, they shall make a feasible plan to keep the water bodies alive.