THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Louis Berger, an American consultant, carried out the feasibility study report without setting foot on the Cheruvally domain found by the government for Sabarimala airport. Although the consultancy had already tried to carry out an investigation, this did not take place due to opposition from the owners. The study report was compiled using government-owned digital maps and a digital map obtained from the Internet. This report is the one that was rejected on Monday by the DGAC.
In 2017, Louis Berger Consultancy won a contract worth Rs 4.6 crore for feasibility study, scientific testing, environmental impact assessment and obtaining central approval. It was agreed that the report should be submitted within four months. However, the government did not receive the 38-page preliminary report until November 2018. The agreement was to pay half the amount when the first report was submitted. KSIDC informed that Rs 2 crore has been paid accordingly. This amount will be reimbursed by the Ministère des Transports.
The report that has to be submitted for the airport permit had to include scientifically studied information about the runway design, wind direction, presence of mountains, structure and presence of soil and rock. None of this was mentioned in the report submitted by Louis Berger. The location of the track was determined by looking at the digital map. According to the DGCA, an airstrip will have to be built here on the lines of Mangalore and Karipur airports.
Currently the DGCA does not allow table runs due to a high risk factor. There are also limits within the proposed area to ensure the required length and width of the track as prescribed by the rules. The US company now says it needs to acquire an additional 100 acres of land for the 2,700-meter-long runway, and that the proposed site for the airport is not on a hilltop. However, the report states that Rs 723 crore is needed to fill the hills and craters in the 2263 acres of land.
Factors impeding the inspection
- The dispute over the ownership of the Cheruvally estate is still before the courts. Although the High Court overturned the government order ordering the Collector of Kottayam to acquire the estate, the case is pending in Munsiff Court.
- The American consultant tried to make a physical survey of the estate. However, it didn’t work. Soil and rock inspections were not completed. The decision is to seek police protection for the investigation
- The company says only a pre-feasibility study has been conducted so far and a final feasibility report can only be submitted after a physical inspection of the estate.
- The consent of the owners must be obtained for the inspection of the domain. KSIDC says the rest of the study will be conducted by the US company.