July 28, 2008 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s ports and aviation ministry has stopped work on a controversial new international airport in the island’s south and decided to shift it to a new location.
Sri Lanka has only one international airport at present and needs a second one under international air safety rules so flights can be diverted in case of emergency.
Aircraft now have to carry extra fuel to divert to airports in neighbouring India or the Maldives if Sri Lanka’s only international airport in Katunayake, north of Colombo, is closed in an emergency.
The Katunayake airport was closed briefly last year and flights diverted after Tamil Tiger rebels used a light aircraft to bomb a nearby airbase.
The government chose a site in the south of the island for the second international airport as the region is in the dry zone, and not affected by the same weather patterns as the existing airport.
The proposed new airport has attracted interest from India’s Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL).
CIAL earlier this year had talks with Rajapaksa, who is the brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, whose political constituency is Hambantota.
A ports and aviation minis