The Kerala government today decided to construct an airport at Kottayam district's Cheruvally estate to provide air connectivity to pilgrims visiting the Lord Ayyappa hill shrine at Sabarimala. The 2,263 acre Cheruvally estate of the Harrisons Plantations is located at Kanjirapally, about 48 km from Sabarimala.
The government had entrusted a four-member committee headed by Additional Chief Secretary P H Kurian to identify a suitable land for the airport, a long felt need of lakhs of pilgrims, who throng the shrine annually.
The committee had recommended Cheruvally estate, which was accepted by the state cabinet that met today, a government release said.
The ownership of the estate, adjacent to two national highways, which is disputed, is said to belong to the 'Believers Church.'
Lakhs of devotees visit the shrine during the three-month long pilgrimage season between November and January every year. The temple is situated in the mountain ranges of the Western Ghats in Pathanamthitta district.
The number of pilgrims visiting the temple has gone up in recent years and an airport is an alternate to reduce traffic congestion during the festival season, the release said. The state government had in February 2016 accorded in principle sanction to construct the greenfield Sabarimala airport.
Earlier, there was a proposal to set up an airport at Aranmula, but following stiff resistance from environmental groups, the LDF government had last year cancelled all orders related to the project, including the grant of in-principle sanction.
The project, promoted by KGS Group, had run into trouble after it was mooted nearly eight years ago with environment groups and people in the area claiming that it would cause environmental hazards.