As per the revised Techno-Economic Feasibility Report (TEFR) submitted to the Ministry of Civil Aviation recently, the proposed Sabarimala airport would have the longest runway of Kerala’s three international airports (Thiruvananthapuram, Cochin, and Kannur).
The runway at the proposed Sabarimala airport will be 3500 metres long, 45 metres wide, and will have 7.5-meter off-shoulders on both sides. Whereas the current runways in Thiruvananthapuram and Cochin are each 3400 metres long, Kannur Airport’s runway is 3050 metres long, with room to expand to 4000 meters.
Sabarimala International Airport is a proposed greenfield airport project to be built in Erumely, in the Kottayam district of Kerala. The proposed airport’s location is Cheruvally Estate, once the site of a rubber plantation.
The Sabarimala temple is part of the Western Ghats and is one of India’s holiest shrines. Currently, the hill shrine can only be reached by road. The temple receives nearly 50 million pilgrims each season. Hence, the airport is considered a solution to ease traffic during the pilgrimage season.
According to The Times of India, once the project is finished, the airport will see an increase in traffic from 16.9 lakh (domestic and foreign passengers included) in 2026 to 32.9 lakh in 2035 and 64.2 lakh in 2052. In terms of cargo, the airport would handle 4.45 metric tonnes in 2026; this amount would rise to 7.85 metric tonnes in 2035; and 14.81 metric tonnes in 2052.
The project’s anticipated cost is Rs 3,900 crore, which includes Rs 260 crore for land costs and Rs 3,400 crore for capital expenditure.
The TEFR and social impact assessment reports for the project were initiated in 2017 and were conducted by Louis Berger’s consultant agency. However, the Centre has returned the TEFR, citing technical shortcomings.
The design and TEFR prepared by Louis Berger’s consultant agency were considered being flawed by the Director-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) earlier in September of last year.
The regulatory body had noted in a report that the site clearance approval requested for Greenfield airport did not comply with the policy on Greenfield airports, which states that no Greenfield airport shall be permitted within an aerial distance of 150 km of an existing civil airport.
It also gave critical feedback on the area designated for preparing the 2,700-meter runway and suggested that a tabletop runway would need to be built on the model of the airports in Kozhikode and Mangalore in the absence of sufficient length and width.