Pointing out various irregularities by promoters in the Rs 2,000-crore Aranmula private international airport project, CAG has rapped successive governments in Kerala for failure to check them and recommended an independent probe into violations and lapses besides an ecology impact study.
In its report tabled in the Assembly today, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India said there was a failure of government machinery right from the lowest revenue officials to the highest level in preventing an individual from illegal acquisition of land, encroachment of government land, filling of paddy fields and transferring part of the same land to the airport company.
“Instead of taking action against encroachers, government machinery aided the illegal activities by becoming partner to the project and expediting approvals without study,” it said.
The work on the controversial project, billed as the first private international greenfield airport promoted by Chennai-based KGS Group, has been recently halted by the Chennai bench of National Green Tribunal on environmental grounds.
CAG recommended the government to conduct an independent inquiry into the cases of violations and lapses that has occurred at all levels including that of the secretariat departments, which supported the “illegal acts” of the individual company.
On the principle approval given by the previous CPI-M led LDF government in Sept 2010, the report said it was accorded without verifying whether the developer had sufficient land for the project.
The government also did not look into the impact of the proposed airport on the four existing or under construction international airports which are within 150 km, it said.
Referring to present Congress-led UDF government’s decision in January, 2013, to accept the equity offered by KGS, CAG said the government became a party to the illegal filling of land, encroachments, environmental and ecological problems.
It further said the company obtained environmental clearance for the project through false submissions.
Criticising the Central Environment Department, the report said instead of considering the environmental and ecological aspects, it took a stand favourable to the proposed project.
It also pointed out that a survey report of an expert committee appointed by the Airports Authority of India on Obstacle Limitation Surface (OLS) , observed certain obstacles, including height of mast of ancient Aramnula Parthas-arathy shrine situated 905 metres from the proposed airport runway. The mast is 30.8 metres high, but the permissible elevation is just 23.7 metres.
OLS said four hills in the airport’s vicinity had height more than the permissible level and needed to be removed along with rubber plantations and trees existing on the hills.
Another major finding was that illegal encroachment had taken place in a stream of about seven km long and four metres wide that runs across paddy fields of three villages.
This is one of the major charges along with other environment and ecological issues raised by local resistance group and Aranmula Heritage Protection Committee, agitating against the project from the beginning.