The Southern Bench of the Tribunal comprising Justice M Chokkalingam and Expert Member R Nagendran passed the order on a petition by Aranmula Heritage Village Protection Action Council which opposed the project, meant to provide air link to famous hill shrine of Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala, contending that it would cause damage to environment.

The tribunal had on April 2 last year granted an interim injunction on construction of the airport in Pathanamthitta District and also restrained Chennai-based KGS International Airport Limited from undertaking any activity on it.

The bench today quashed the environment clearance (EC) granted to the proposed project by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) on November 18, 2013.

"Consequently the project proponent KGS International Airport Ltd has been restrained from carrying out any activities either constructional or otherwise in respect of the project on the strength of the EC," the bench said.

The project, the country's first private Greenfield airport, was facing stiff resistance from the devotees of Sri Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple and heritage committee who said the airport would cause structural damage to the temple and cause several environmental hazards.

The tribunal observed that consultant - Enviro Care India Private Ltd, Madurai, was not competent to prepare Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) or to appear before the Environment Assessment Committee of MoEF.

It also held that the public hearing conducted for the proposed project was in violation of the mandatory provisions of the EIA Notifications 2006.

The petitioner submitted that the airport was planned to be set up on the banks of holy river Pampa, in an ecologically sensitive and environmentally diverse and rich area and MoEF, without considering the adverse effects of the airport on the pristine environment of the area, had granted the Election Commission.

In its reply, the company had denied the averments and stated that from 2009 to 2014, many petitions were filed against the project and contended that the petitioner had no locus standing as they were not aggrieved by the project.

The petitioners had never appeared before appropriate forum to submit their views in the past, he contended.

The Kerala State Pollution Control Board had submitted that public hearing as part of Environment Clearance Process for the project had been conducted in 2011.

The meeting was presided by the District Collector and wide publicity was given in English and Malayalam newspapers.

(Agencies)

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