Expansion of Salem Airport, Tamil Nadu, India

Expansion of the Salem airport and also the Chennai-Salem Expressway, requiring much fertile agricultural land, result in mass mobilization by the communities, and arrests of activists.


On 27 April 2018, hundreds of farmers and their family members laid a siege to the Salem collectorate to protest against land acquisition for airport expansion in the city [1]. The primary reason for the protest has been the safeguard of the land and livelihoods. The proposed expansion of the airport requires 567 acres of land. The land for the initial airport was acquired in 1989 from the parents and grandparents of those protesting now. When the Salem district administration began formalities to acquire lands for the expansion, the farmers and the residents strongly opposed. They also urged the district administration and chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami to drop land acquiring activity even as they were assured of huge amounts in compensation. The officials assured the land owners and the farmers that they would give four times of money than the government's guideline value. "But, we are not struggling for money and we protesting to save our livelihood," the farmers said.

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Basic Data
NameExpansion of Salem Airport, Tamil Nadu, India
ProvinceTamil Nadu
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Land acquisition conflicts
Ports and airport projects
Specific CommoditiesLand
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsIn 1993, the airport was started with 160 acres of land at Kamalapuram near Omalur. The length of the runway is about 6,000 ft and flights such as ATR-72, B-737-200 type can be landed easily. The airport also equipped with apron to park two aircrafts at a time. The ministry of civil aviation (MoCA) has taken efforts for expanding the airport after connecting the airport under the regional connectivity scheme (RCS).

However, between its construction in 1993 to as late as 2018, the airport has been lying in disuse for over two decades.

The MoCA needed additional of 570 acres to expand the airport. "If we get that additional 570 acre lands, we could lay runways up to 8,000 sqft to accommodate Boeing aircrafts," said an official from Salem Airport. He said warehouse and providing hanger services to provide maintenance to aircrafts would be set up in 100 acres.

The newly proposed expansion falls under the Udan scheme, an initiative jointly funded by the Central and state governments across India that aims to 'let the common citizen fly'. The government has pumped in Rs 4,500 crore for the scheme. While the Centre will offer a lowered VAT, service tax and flexible code sharing, the state will subsidise jet fuel, provide security, fire service, electricity, water and land. The government hopes to increase regional connectivity and facilitate the growth of jobs and infrastructure

In March this year, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami inaugurated the revamped airport. The airport now operates one commercial flight to and from Chennai.

The expansion is a part of the initiative of the Tamil Nadu state government for expanding six airports in the state, in Tuticorin, Trichy, Salem, Chennai, Coimbatore and Madurai [4].
Project Area (in hectares)230
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population1000-1200
Start Date01/01/2015
Relevant government actorsUnion Civil Aviation Ministry, Airport Authority of India, Tamil Nadu State Government
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersSalem Citizens' Forum. Coalition of Environmental Justice in India
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
Forms of MobilizationInvolvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Refusal of compensation
Hundreds of farmers and their family members laid a siege to the Salem district collectorate (gherao).
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Land dispossession
Potential: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusUnder construction
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCriminalization of activists
Strengthening of participation
Violent targeting of activists
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.The protests are ongoing, and there is a lot of uncertainty about whether the government will listen to the communities decision to not give their land for the expansion of the airport. There is fear that there will be forceful takeover of the land by the military, and a lot of distrust.
Sources and Materials

[1] Article about the protest against the Salem collectorate in April 2018.
[click to view]

[3] Manasa Rao article on the human cost of expanding the Salem airport.
[click to view]

[2] Arrest of activists for protesting against the airport expansion and construction of an eight-lane highway between Chennai and Salem.
[click to view]

[4] Plans of the Tamil Nadu state government to expand six airports including Salem.
[click to view]

Coalition for Environmental Justice in India strongly condemning the arrests.
[click to view]

Salem Airport expansion row: Activist Piyush Manush gets conditional bail, not for Valarmathi

The Omalur court granted conditional bail to Piyush Manush and denied bail to actor Mansoor Ali Khan, both arrested for allegedly instigating farmers to protest against Salem airport expansion project. 23 June 2018. New Indian Express.
[click to view]

Media Links

Salem Airport expansion took the first former soul- Video by Piyush Manush
[click to view]

Scroll.in, Tamil Nadu, 18 June 2018. Activist Piyush Manush held for protesting against Salem airport, expressway projects. The police had on Sunday detained actor Mansoor Ali Khan for opposing the ventures.
[click to view]

Other Documents

Farmers protest against Airport Expansion in April 2018 Article in The Times of India
[click to view]

Poster by the National Alliance of People's Movement condemning the arrest of activists
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorBrototi Roy
Last update20/11/2018