Aranmula: Asserting that the proposed airport in Aranmula cannot be allowed in view of environmental concerns, the CPM-led LDF government in Kerala Saturday launched sowing operations in about 56 hectares of land acquired for the project, promoted by KGS Group.
Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan kick-started the sowing operations as locals and farmers cheered.
The LDF government was not against airports, he said.
"We only said the airport cannot be allowed here as it will mean destroying nature and environment. We do not want an airport here. There will be no change in this decision," Pinarayi said.
The LDF government was keen on comprehensive development of the state, he added.
Agriculture minister V.S. Sunil Kumar and water resources minister Mathew P. Thomas were among those present on the occasion.
The land where sowing operations were launched Saturday has been lying fallow for about two decades due to water-logging.
About 700 acres of land had been acquired for the project, which has faced protests from environmentalists and local people.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) had in 2014 set aside the environmental clearance given by the then UPA government to the project and directed KGS Aranmula International Airport Ltd, the promoters, to stop construction at the site.
The tribunal had passed the order on a petition filed by the Aranmula Heritage Village Protection Action Council.
The project also faced stiff resistance from devotees of Sri Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple, who have said that the airport would cause structural damage to the temple.
In an affidavit filed in Kerala High Court in August last, the state government had said it would examine whether a government order granting in-principle sanction to the airport project could be canceled.
It had also stated that the proposed project area constitutes large extent of paddy and wetland which cannot be legally converted for the purpose of a private company in view of existing legal provisions.
Need of the hour
Pinarayi Vijayan also said production of food grains and other agricultural produce needed to be increased in the state.
In vegetable cultivation, there had been a huge change and this was felt during the 'Onam' season as prices did not go up.
"We were able to intervene in the market. Normally during Onam, vegetable prices soar, but it did not happen this time," the Chief Minister said.
He also stressed the need to enhance cold storage facilities in the state.
Kerala heading for severe drought: CM
Pointing that a huge danger was lurking in the state in the form of drought as the South west monsoon was deficient, he said the state, in the past, had hardly received any rains from the north east monsoon, which is yet to set.
"If this situation continues, the state is heading for a severe drought. We need to take precautions,' he said.
Pinarayi said the government was also planning to encourage rain water harvesting in a big way. All new houses and residential complexes need to have rain harvesting facility, he said.
(With agency inputs)