The Revenue Department of Kerala government has ordered the Kottayam District Collector to acquire the land to construct the Sabarimala greenfield airport in the district.
The government order states that the land of Cheruvally estate, situated in Erumeli of Kottayam district, has been selected to build the Sabarimala airport. The airport will be about 48 kms away from the Sabarimala temple.
The Kerala government had given in-principle approval for the construction of the greenfield airport in 2017. After US-based carried out a feasibility study in 2018, the Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC) had submitted the detailed feasibility report in December 2018.
The 2,263.18 acres of land was earlier held by the Harrison Malayalam Plantation. However, it later became a disputed land when the Believers church (Gospel of Asia) claimed ownership over it, arguing that they bought it from Harrison Malayalam. However, the GO says that the transaction was not approved. It was also earlier found that Harrison Malayalam was holding the land illegally.
“The 2,263.18 acres of land in Erumeli South and Manimala villages held by Harrison Malayalam Plantation was purchased by Gospel of Asia, Charitable Trust and Transfer of Registry effected. As per the proceedings, the Transfer of Registry has been cancelled by the then Kanjirapally Tahsildar since the state has taken the stand that the petitioner, as well as its predecessor, Harrison Malayalam Limited, has no title over the disputed land and the title of the land vests with the state," the government order states.
The order also mentions that the Kerala government will deposit a compensatory amount in the Kerala High Court as it is disputed land.
“Acquire land by invoking the provisions contained in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) Act, 2013, subject to the condition that the entire cost of compensation will be deposited before the Honourable Court having jurisdiction over the area as per Section 77(2) of LARR Act, 2013 since there exists dispute on the title of the property, and further action to disburse compensation will be made based on the verdict of the court on the dispute of the title of the land," it says.
The order also directs the District Collector to ensure all norms of the Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland (Amendment) Act, 2018, Coastal Zone Regulation (CRZ) Act and the Environment Protection Act, 1986, are followed while the acquiring the land.
The Sabarimala greenfield airport was proposed considering the growing number of pilgrims visiting the shrine every year. Currently, pilgrims have to reach the temple by road or railway.