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Kerala gives nod to Rs20b international airport in Aranmula
BY ASHRAF PADANNA January 11, 2013
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TRIVANDRUM: Kerala cabinet has accorded clearance for another international airport in Pathanamthitta district catering to the nonresident Indians (NRIs) and tourists heading for the state’s backwaters and hill stations.

The state government will hold 10 per cent equity participation in Aranmula airport company, modalities of which is being worked out, the southern state’s chief minister Oommen Chandy told reporters after a meeting of his cabinet on Thursday. The construction of the airport is scheduled to commence next week.

“We received a formal application for clearance and equity participation. The cabinet cleared it today,” he said. “There would be a nominee of the government on the board of directors. If the company needs government land, that would be provided at market value.”

The proposed airport is coming up about 110 kilometres from Thiruvananthapuram. The famed Sabarimala temple is located 30 kilometres from the project site. The Airports Authority of India (AAI) accorded clearance to the project in September last year.

Executive director of the KGS Aranmula International Airport Limited, Dr PT Nandakumar, said the construction of the airport, which now had all the mandatory clearances, would start soon and the first flight would take off early next year.

This is the third international airport in the tiny state, which is India’s tourism super brand, being developed with the state as a minority stakeholder after the hugely successful Cochin International Airport and Kannur International Airport, which is expected to open early 2015. The AAI also runs two international airport in Trivandrum and Calicut.

However this would be the first international airport in the state in which the state would have least say considering the low level of equity participation. Anil Ambani’s Reliance group has 15 per cent stake in the company controlled by KGS group promoted by three individuals.

“With the state clearing the investment proposal it has now become another PPP (public-private-partnership) project,” Nandakumar said denying reports that the company would offer ‘sweat equity’ to the government. The government nominee would also be chairman of the company.

The total cost of the project is estimated at Rs20 billion which would be financed in a debt equity ratio of 2:1 as the paid up capital is set at Rs7 billion. Nandakumar said the company had already lined up the funding and no more equity partners were needed.

The airport capable of handling huge aircraft like Airbus A-320 and Boeing 747, is coming up in 700 acres. It will have a runway length of 3100x45 meters and the terminal building is designed to handle 1000 passengers at a time.

The aerotropolis coming up in the district, home to a large number of nonresident Indian population, will accommodated special economic zone, multi-specialty hospital, shopping mall, star hotels and an international school.

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