Indian Defense Minister AK Antony has flagged off the construction work of the new international airport in the northern Kerala district of Kannur, raising hopes of thousands of expatriates from the region.
This will be the fourth international airport in the southern Indian state, home to a large number of expatriates living in the Gulf region.
“After two years, you all will be able to fly directly into this airport and proceed to your homes,” Antony said after the switch on to the applause of a large gathering at the airport site near Mattanur in the district.
The Larsen & Toubro, the infrastructure major which received the Rs15.9 billion construction contract for the runway and allied facilities, started work immediately after signing the deal and the airport authorities awaiting Antony’s availability for the formal launch.
The Kannur International Airport Limited (KIAL), in which the state holds 35 percent stake, is expected to finalize the contract for construction of the passenger terminals and allied works soon.
“The board of directors of KIAL is meeting in Trivandrum to decide on the second phase of construction, which we hope to begin in April or May,” said Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, who presided over the groundbreaking ceremony.
The first flight will take off from here on December 31, 2015, he said.
Federal Ministers KC Venugopal and Mullapally Ramachandran, the southern state’s diaspora minister K. C. Joseph and aviation minister K. Babu and deputy leader of the opposition in Kerala Assembly, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, were also present.
Venugopal, the junior minister for aviation, officially announced the decision of the Airports Authority of India (AAI) to take 26 percent equity participation in the company.
Energy major Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) and other public sector companies together hold 23 percent while the public is offered 16 percent, of which six percent is already subscribed.
Five percent of the shares is offered to the Federal Bank and NRI businessman Yusuffali MA.
The remaining five percent is offered to the small expatriate investors.
The authorized equity capital is Rs10 billion.
The cost of land, converted into equity, was fixed at Rs2.94 billion. The remaining part will be raised through debt.
The airport, coming up in 2,000 acres, will cater to a large number of people from the region staying in the Gulf countries and open up immense potential of tourism and Kannur’s cotton wears.
Besides the existing Calicut, Cochin and Trivandrum airports, surviving mainly on the Gulf-bound migrants, the state is also planning another international airport in the Central Kerala heritage town of Aranmula, which will be India’s first private airport in which the state government was offered a 10 percent “sweat equity”.