Even as the Cochin International Airport Ltd (CIAL) picked up the United Nations Champions of the Earth award in the ‘entrepreneurial vision’ category, for being the world’s first fully solar-powered airport, back home in Kochi, Kerala, people have been protesting the diversion of the Chengal creek to build the airport, which resulted in large-scale destruction of houses and crops during the recent floods. At CIAL’s 24th annual general body meeting, many shareholders stood in queue to lambast the board of directors for not having a solution in place to prevent flooding of the airport and its surrounding areas when the river Periyar overflows. As the state government holds 32 per cent of the shares, Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan was also present as chairman of the board and took much flak.
CIAL sits on the natural waterway of the Chengal creek, a tributary of the Periyar. Sammad P.I., vice-chairman of the Chengalthodu Samrakshana Samithi, says the creek, a 4.5-km stretch of which once flowed through the place where the airport came up, has been diverted and its natural course blocked by 12-ft-high walls. On the dry bed of the creek stand the solar panels, which brought the airport international acclaim and the UN award.