To ease the journey for Sabarimala pilgrims, the Kerala cabinet has given its nod for the construction of an airport at the Cheruvally rubber estate in Erumeli, Kottayam.

The Cheruvally estate is around 50 kms from the Sabarimala temple and belongs to Thiruvalla-based Believers Church, which bought it from the Harrison Company but the state government has staked claim to it. 

Though the Harrison Company had sold the land to Believers Church, the government had found the deal to be illegal. The issue is currently pending in the Kerala High Court.

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The site for the much-talked about and long-delayed Sabarimala airport was identified by a state government committee. The cabinet on Wednesday accepted the proposal of the committee, led by Revenue Secretary P.H. Kurian, which has zeroed in on the 2,263 acre estate, a statement from Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's office said.

Last year, the Pinarayi government got the informal sanction from Union civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju to build an airport near Sabarimala temple. The Raju had assured Pinarayi that a preliminary no-objection certificate for the airport would be given once the land for the project was identified.

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For long there has been a demand for an airport to serve the Sabarimala pilgrims. During the previous Oommen Chandy government, a proposal by a private player to build an airport at Aranmula in Pathanamthitta district had got entangled in various issues, including opposition from locals and environmentalists.

After the LDF government assumed office in May last year, it revoked the earlier sanction for Aranmula airport and began to look for another land in nearby areas.