Feeder Airports will give Wings to Tourism & Business
The decision of the Kerala government to set up feeder airports in the districts of Wayanad and Idukki will help propel the pace of economic development in both these districts. The presence of an air transport system has several spin-off effects and is often regarded as an economic engine for growth. Both Wayanad and Idukki are high potential growth areas. The availability of air services to these districts can help tap this potential especially in the areas of tourism and commercial trade.
Advantages of a Feeder Airport:
(i) The arrival of air transport will lead to an inflow of investment. This will bring in more local employment opportunities, better productivity and higher income levels.
(ii) Air links enable local communities to connect more effectively with distant markets. In addition, air transport systems are often cited as the way to build better linkages not merely in business but also between communities. The result will be a greater integration of not just far flung areas of the district, but also of isolated communities with the mainstream.
(iii) Air services will help increase tourist flow leading to economic improvement.
(iv) The presence of an air transport system is irreplaceable for medical emergencies and humanitarian assistance. In difficult to reach areas with tough terrains, this will be a boon to the local population.
Present Status of the proposals
The Idukki Feeder Airport: The Airport Authority of India (AAI) has granted clearance for setting up the project at the site identified by the state government. In-principle clearance has also been secured from the Ministry of Defense. In addition, KSIDC has appointed IFCI Limited, ICRA and IACS to conduct a Techno Economic Feasibility (TEF) Study and an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) study.
The Wayanad Feeder Airport: The government sanctioned the setting up of a feeder airport at Wayanad in the 2009-10 State Budget. Out of the ten sites identified, the AAI selected a 400-acre site at Panamaram/Kaniyambatta villages. Further studies for completion of the TEFR and EIA are being conducted at present.
How Tourism will Benefit: Both Idukki and Wayanad rate high on Kerala’s scale of must-see-tourist destinations. The beautiful high ranges of Idukki have long been a favourite of both domestic as well as foreign tourists who flock here to see the majestic wildlife in the sanctuaries and enjoy the spectacular beauty of nature. Idukki’s charms are only enhanced by her salubrious climate.
Wayanad arrived a little later on Kerala’s tourism map – but it was certainly a big bang arrival. The district is now a favoured place for those who want to go off the beaten track or for those who want to get away from urban stress and relax in the midst of its emerald paddy fields, thundering waterfalls and dense forests.
But in today’s fast paced world, a significant number of tourists are likely to avoid visiting areas without an air connection. The time taken for road travel (especially as both Idukki and Wayanad are not directly accessible by train) is seen as time wasted during a holiday.
At present, the airport closest to Idukki is Madurai at a distance of 140 kilometers. Travellers to Wayanad today have to cover the distance from Calicut – the nearest airport – to Wayanad by road. The setting up of feeder airports will help attract this segment of tourists to these industrially-backward regions of the State.