Parandur airport row: Residents complete one year of protests

On the 365th-day, hundreds of protesters gathered together to oppose the project at Ambedkar ground in Ekanapuram village.
Parandur airport row: Residents complete one year of protests
Parandur airport row: Residents complete one year of protests
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On July 25, Tuesday, residents of Parandur and 12 other neighbouring villages completed a year of protest against the proposed greenfield airport in Chennai.  The Tamil Nadu government continued to ignore or sidestep the year-long protests including marches, sit-ins, and school boycotts, environmental concerns, and multiple resolutions against the project by residents.    

On the 365th-day, the protest took place at Ambedkar ground in Ekanapuram village where hundreds of protesters gathered together to oppose the project.  More than 500 police personnel were deployed at Ekanapuram to prevent untoward events at the protest site.

The evening protests were started by the residents last year, on the same day, right after the union and state government announced that the second airport to Chennai will be located in Parandur and neighbouring villages in the Kancheepuram district. 

TTV Dhinakaran, General Secretary of Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam, met and addressed the protesters in Kancheepuram. He also condemned the state government for acting against the interests of Parandur residents and said there is no difference between Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin and opposition leader Edappadi Palaniswami (EPS). He also highlighted that this project was introduced during the period of EPS. “Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), assumed office after promising the people of the state that it would not bring any projects that are anti-people. But it acts differently now,” he said.  

During the protest, Dhinakaran asked why the government is not contemplating revamping the airstrips that are located in Tambaram, Cholavaram, Neyveli, and other places that are left unused for years.  It is understandable to bring international airports to the state to improve trade and business and strengthen the connectivity with other countries but the question is whether it should be constructed at the cost of people, the environment, water bodies, and livelihood of the people, he asked further. 

Speaking to TNM, Elango, one of the members of the Joint Movement against Parandur Green Airport Project and Ekanapuram Village Residents Farmer Welfare Federation, said that the state government failed to heed their demands and reiterated that the protest will continue till the Union and state governments withdraw the project from their villages. "The expert committee's visit and the way they carry out the inspection shows how the government sees the issue."  Elango said the inspection was carried out by the IIT-Madras expert committee team despite the villagers being against the study on July 6.

"We have asked them to evaluate our land after a month. If they visit our villages, during the late summer, then there would be nothing but dry and barren land. Then they would write the report saying that the land is suitable for nothing and there are no waterbodies, so that they could move ahead with the project," he said, adding that since the beginning, the government has decided to act against our interests.  On July 6, the Parandur residents were detained after they marched toward Sriperumbudur to emphasise their resistance against the project. 

C Murugan, a resident of Meleri, one of the 13 villages designated for the project, said that the government did not take any concrete actions to stop the project from being implemented in his area. “This is a fertile ground where farmers grow paddy and we have many waterbodies which support our livelihood. So we keep saying that the government should not abandon the farmers. The ministers met the residents and farmers twice but there is no clear message that they will drop the project,” he pointed out.  

The government said that it would offer 3.5 times the market value as compensation for the land that is about to be acquired. But residents of Parandur refused to accept the offer and say they will continue their protests. 

The greenfield airport will be spread over 4,971 acres of land identified by the government at Parandur. A ‘greenfield airport’ refers to a new airport in a new location that is built from scratch. The distance between Chennai city to Parandur is around 73 km and the time taken to travel will be 1 hour and 54 minutes. The need for another airport came up after passenger traffic touched around 220 lakh last year.  The existing airport in Chennai is currently located in Meenambakkam and has the capacity to handle passenger traffic of up to 150 lakh only. 

As of now, the proposal on site clearance was sent to a Steering Committee of the Ministry of Civil Aviation several months ago by the Tamil Nadu Industrial Development Corporation (TIDCO). The proposal was also sent to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the Airports Authority of India (AAI), and the Ministry of Defence and awaits their comments. 

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