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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
Name of conflict:Expansion of Salem Airport, Tamil Nadu, India
State or province:Tamil Nadu
Location of conflict:Salem
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Ports and airport projects
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Land
Project Details and Actors
Project details

In 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).

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Project area:230
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:1000-1200
Start of the conflict:01/01/2015
Relevant government actors:Union Civil Aviation Ministry, Airport Authority of India, Tamil Nadu State Government
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Salem Citizens' Forum. Coalition of Environmental Justice in India
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
Forms of mobilization:Involvement 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-economical 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
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Strengthening of participation
Violent targeting of activists
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain: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 & Materials

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

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

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

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

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

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

Meta information
Contributor:Brototi Roy
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:3769
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