Friday, 27 November 2015

2nd Aerotropolis Update

Yep, you guessed it, I'm going on about aerotropolis projects again, i.e. airport cities, the airport-centric developments that are being planned and constructed worldwide. Here is the second issue of  'Aerotropolis Update', from the Global Anti-Aerotropolis Movement (GAAM). The Update contains news of development around 46 airports. All regions of the world are covered but there is a special focus on Africa and Asia, where large greenfield sites are being allocated for these developments. 

Allocation of large areas of land is a key concern because of displacement of rural communities, land acquisition injustice and loss of undeveloped land that is either agricultural or a valuable ecosystem and wildlife habitat such as forests. Other key concerns are high levels of government expenditure, subsidies such as tax breaks and integration with other destructive megaprojects such as deep water ports, multi-lane highways, oil and gas projects and mega tourism complexes. This Aerotropolis Update is just a fraction on what is happening around the world. Information is already being compiled for Issue 3.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Another aerotropolis update

Its September and I'm getting round to posting about things that happened in July and August...

Epic ecocide continues for construction of Istanbul's third airport, but the campaign to stop the eco-massacre, and the integrated megaprojects - a canal and third bridge across the Bosphorus Strait - it is part of, is amazing. It is co-ordinated by Kuzey Ormanlari Suvanmasi (North Forest Defence), information about the third airport campaign is in this section, and there is some information in English here. The airport is actually a 'Trojan horse' for an aerotropolis, on a vast 77 square kilometre site. Here's my article in The Ecologist about it - Campaigners resist destruction of Istanbul forests and wetlands for airport megaproject. The article was also published by Truthout and here on the Kuzey Ormanlari Suvanmasi website, with three videos that provide an extraordinary record of what is taking place. It is rare for the reality of obliteration of ecosystems for a truly gargantuan megaproject to be exposed like this.

Global Anti-Aerotropolis Movement (GAAM), the new organisation I am a founder member of, published the first issue of GAAM Aerotropolis Update, a round-up of aerotropolis developments around the world. It raises issues of large scale land allocation for aerotropolis schemes, and resistance against this, and subsidies such as tax breaks. Compilation of information for the second issue is underway. There is more content on the GAAM website now, some reports and articles that are critical of aerotropolis projects - hard to find in the deluge of industry information that presents these schemes as miraculous economic engines' for host communities, and some quotations from aerotropolis critics.

Plans for a mini aerotropolis have emerged right on my doorstep here in Yorkshire. An 'airport village' comprising shops, hotel, and and industrial park is planned on greenbelt land, currently used for farming, adjacent to Leeds Bradford Airport. As with all aerotropolis projects the objective of the commercial development is to support the airport's growth. Here is a blogpost about it on the GAAM website. And this a map showing the area in question (within the red line).

 I'm quite pleased with the GAAM logo - not bad for a couple of hours playing around on Powerpoint and a few graphics programmes. If you compare this logo with the standard aerotropolis schematic (a standardised template is used for aerotropolis projects worldwide) you might notice a crucial difference - aside from the no entry sign and the plane superimposed on the image.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Anti-Aerotropolis update

My latest article for The Ecologist website is about aerotropolis projects: Aerotropolis alert! Airport mega-projects driving environmental destruction worldwide. An aerotropolis is airport centric urban development. Established and new airport are surrounded by commercial development which is designed to be aviation dependent. Greenfield (undeveloped) sites are preferred, inevitably entailing the loss of farmland and displacement of rural people, or the destruction of vast tracts of wildlife habitats including forests. Communities are largely excluded from planning and governance of aerotropolis projects, while corporations benefit from infrastructure provision and incentives including tax breaks.

Chapter 11 of my book Plane Truth: Aviation's Real Impact on People and the Environment is all about aerotropolis projects, in several locations in the US, Europe, Asia and Africa. Since the book was published it has emerged that aerotropolis developments are even more widespread than I realised, and several are at the larger end of the scale, allocated sites of 100 square kilometres or more. You can read the chapter here on Issuu:

Nearly two months ago I was pleased to announce the launch of the Global Aerotropolis Movement (GAAM). The GAAM website already has a few blogposts about aerotropolis schemes around the world, including in Cairo, Istanbul and Bhogapuram in Andhra Pradesh. A list of articles that are critical or the aerotropolis, both the concept and specific projects, is building up, to start to counter the deluge of industry information that presents the aerotropolis as an economic panacea. As well as checking out the website you can follow GAAM on Twitter and 'Like' the GAAM Facebook page for regular updates about aerotropolis projects and local campaign groups.

GAAM website

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Investment and incentives for Cairo Airport City

The Egyptian government is encouraging investment in Cairo Airport City, a plan for an investment zone around the capital city's airport. This article 'Airport City project to cement Egypt as a major aviation hub in Africa and the Middle East' is quite enlightening. It is from the WorldFolio News website, which states that it 'provides intelligence about the economies with the highest growth potential in the world, with a focus on understanding them from within'. There are interviews with 'key' (i.e. most powerful) government officials and senior business executives.

H.E. Hossam Kamal, Minister of Civil Aviation is interviewed about Cairo Airport City, explaining that it will cover 10 million square metres of land (i.e. 10 square kilometres, actually small compared to the world's largest airport cities - Kuala Lumpur Airport owns 100 square kilometres of land and Dubai’s new airport, Al Maktoum, has been allocated a full 140 square kilometres). Anyway, the Cairo Airport City plan is the usual aerotropolis strategy: use the land around the airport for commercial and industrial activities in order to maximise revenue from non-aviation activities.

The zones planned for the aerotropolis are typical: goods handling and logistics areas linked with the airport's cargo facilities; aviation training; hotels and restaurants to capture revenue from passengers (along with an amusement park to squeeze some revenue out of the captive audience of bored transit passengers). The solar panels planned for Cairo Airport City are not an unusual feature for an aerotropolis. Solar energy will reduce the airport city's fuel bill but they are just a green garnish; as a whole the commercial and industrial development will lead to a massive increase in greenhouse gas emissions as it is designed to be aviation dependent, feeding airport growth.

The article makes the standard claims about supposed economic benefits to the region i.e. job creation and revenues. The latter must be weighed against incentives (subsidies such as tax breaks) which are granted to investors. Incentives are not specified but H.E. Hossam Kamal states that the marketing plan 'significantly takes into account offering many incentives and facilities to attract investors'.

No surprise that Cairo Airport City is linked with surface transport infrastructure projects: there is plan for a rail link between the aerotropolis development, Ain Sokhna Port and an investment zone near the Suez Canal where, according to Kamal 'certainly there will be a need to establish airports at the region'. Which shows that the infrastructure development will trigger more infrastructure development.

The interview ends with an outline of the incentives (i.e. subsidies) that Egypt's Ministry of Aviation offers to international airlines. It's quite an insight into the high level of government support for the aviation and tourism industries. International airlines are given reduced landing and waiting fees for operating at airports in 'touristic cities'. In fact there is a 100% exemption from these fees at Luxor, Aswan, Abu Simbel and Assiut airports, for airlines using these airports as a base.

The Ministry of Aviation also pays towards the services provided to passengers at Egyptian airports: $20 per passenger on international, regular and charter flights and $4 per passenger on domestic routes. Ministers have also intervened to exempt certain airports from loading bridge fees and fire services, and duties have been reduced on aircraft weighing more than 200 tons.

Basically, the Egyptian government is falling over backwards to facilitate aviation growth.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Launch of Global Anti-Aerotropolis Movement (GAAM)

I am delighted to announce the launch of the Global Anti-Aerotropolis Movement (GAAM). Please find our Press Release below and two briefing papers:
* Join the Global Anti-Aerotropolis Movement (GAAM)!, and
* What is an Aerotropolis, and why must these developments be stopped?
Organizations and individuals are invited to sign up as supporters of GAAM! For updates, please regularly visit the GAAM website and GAAM Facebook page.

Press Release 20/03/2015

Global Anti-Aerotropolis Movement Launched 

Campaigners from across the globe have come together to fight so-called ‘airport city’ or ‘aerotropolis’ schemes, which have been spreading rapidly worldwide in recent years(1). Environmental and climate justice campaigners, aviation and tourism critics, human rights activists, and other concerned citizens and groups have formed the Global Anti-Aerotropolis Movement (GAAM) to raise public awareness and take action on socially and ecologically harmful mega-airport development projects.

An aerotropolis is an airport-centric development, whereby a new or existing airport is surrounded by urbanisation including luxury hotels; shopping and entertainment facilities; convention, trade and exhibition complexes; golf courses and sport stadiums; and industrial parks. Governments advocate aerotropolis projects as a way of stimulating the economy but critics argue they create environmental, social and economic problems (2).

Anita Pleumarom, one of the founders of GAAM, said, 'These massive airport ‘development’ packages can cause havoc particularly in developing countries with weak democratic structures and law enforcement. They often involve forceful evictions and dispossession of the people’s access to land, water and other resources. Therefore, it is not surprising that resistance against such projects has been growing worldwide. GAAM aims to support local struggles and strengthen the international 'campaign community’ against harmful aerotropolis projects.' Organizations and individuals who share GAAM’s concerns are invited to sign up as supporters.



(1) Global Anti-Aerotropolis Movement (GAAM) founders:
AirportWatch, U.K.
AirportWatch Europe
Rose Bridger, author of the book ‘Plane Truth
Pastoralists Indigenous NGO’s FORUM, Tanzania
Third World Network
Tourism Investigation & Monitoring Team, Thailand
Tourism Advocacy & Action Forum (TAAF)

(2) Briefings:
 ‘Join the Global Anti-Aerotropolis Movement’ (GAAM)!’, by Anita Pleumarom

What is an Aerotropolis, and why must these developments be stopped’, by Rose Bridger

For more information about GAAM, and/or to sign up as a supporter, please email: Rose Bridger, or Anita Pleumarom, or John Stewart, Chair of AirportWatch

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Aviation expansion is a land rights issue

Talk of land rights brings to mind the issue of communities being displaced for many kinds of development - mines, dams, oil pipelines, manufacturing plants, multi-lane highways, mega tourism resorts, and plantations. Aviation is also a land rights issue. Airports require large, preferably ‘greenfield’ sites i.e. undeveloped land. But this land will inevitably, if sparsely, populated. Often it will be farmland, so rural communities are threatened with displacement. Too often a new airport, or expansion of an existing airport, brings the threat of a land grab - dispossession, no democratic process, landholders evicted by armed police and farms and homes destroyed by excavators and bulldozers. Below are some examples:

Resistance by farming communities against a new Mexico City airport dates back to 2001. Here is an excellent video in English from the wonderful Telesur news network, giving some background to the long struggle against the airport and an outline of recent developments.

The 2001 airport plan, which would have displaced over 56,000 people living in San Salvador, Atenco, was announced, then defeated after none months of struggle. The government took vengeful action against the community in May 2006, conducting a brutal military police raid. Two young men were killed and 26 women raped. Nine farmers’ leaders were imprisoned but an international campaign for their liberation was successful. Their illegal sentences were quashed and they were freed after being incarcerated for four years and 59 days. The raid was ordered by Enrique Peña Nieto. At the time he was the governor of the State of Mexico. He is now the country’s president and is championing revival of the airport project, even bigger than before, a fully-fledged megaproject with 6 runways, which was announced in September 2014.

Here is a good article from Upside Down World on the history of the Mexico City airport project and what is now at stake. The actual airport would be on land that was acquired by the government, ostensibly for an ecological project, and villagers are concerned that the associated commercial development and road network would seriously impact on their lives. There is more information in English, regularly updated, on the Dorset Chiapas Solidarity blog.

This video, from Laos, shows a rare act of citizens’ defiance in a country with a dismal human rights record. Dissenters are dealt with harshly by the oppressive regime,  including people resisting land acquisition for development projects. In January 2014 farmers in the Tonpheung district of the northern Bokeo province refuse to vacate their rice fields for an airport.  The land has been given to a Chinese firm to build a ‘casino driven special economic zone’ with tax exempt status. which would form part of a casino oriented tax-free economic zone. About 50 people stood in front of bulldozers and refused to move out of the way when confronted with officials and police armed with AK-47 assault rifles. The police retreated and farmers kept up their resistance, taking turn to guard their plots of land around the clock. As of 22nd January it was reported that protests had stopped and the farmers had agreed to meet with officials. Tensions flared up again three months later and the farmers prevented the developer from undertaking survey work. They said that their rice fields were three times more valuable than the amount offered in compensation, which was insufficient for them purchase sufficient new farmland to meet their needs. Some villagers said that they were threatened with imprisonment if they would not accept the compensation package. 

Even seemingly minor airport boundary extensions can impact on hundreds of people in neighbouring communities. Here, from Cambodia: The Eviction of the Airport Community, is a short documentary consisting of interviews with residents living next to Phnom Penh Airport, about their ongoing dispute as they face the threat of eviction for a redevelopment project extending 10 metres outside the current airport boundary.  Residents of five villages, 300 families, insist that they are not, as the government claims, squatters or illegal settlers, maintaining that they purchased the land legally. Legal experts agree that the airport’s eviction plan is a violation of their housing rights. Nevertheless, they were handed eviction notices in 2012, but were offered no compensation. The villagers have been offered a new location without a water or electricity supply electricity and with no access to facilities such as a school and a market. The video includes a short segment of footage of the sort of violent eviction that is feared, as has happened at Boeung Kak, Borei Keila and Dey Krahom. In February 2014 the residents agreed to let the IFC Ombudsman to help resolve the dispute and hopefully mediate a solution with the airport operator and the government.

On 25th September 2014 there was a news report of a protest against construction of an airport in the Kulon Progo district of Yogyakarta in Java, Indonesia’s most populated island. Villagers blocked 1.5 kilometres of road to Java. At the time of writing this YouTube video had only recorded 31 views. The newsreader states calmly that villagers believe that the airport project threatens their livelihoods, and some were excluded from the land acquisition process. But the video clearly shows people in distress, resorting to blocking the road with stones and their bodies. The newsreader states that ‘police, military and public order officials were mobilised to secure the location’ arrive to clear. As soon as said officials come into shot the video clip ends. It leaves you wondering what the hell happened next, what exactly was done to these people to ‘secure the location’. The Indonesian government is notorious for land grabbing and police brutality towards people resisting it.

Two weeks later there was a press report of 500 farmers, mostly women, from four subdistricts protesting against the new airport. They do not want to sell fertile coastal land where they make a good livelihood growing vegetables, fruits and other crops. The farmers’ spokesperson, Martono, said: ‘We don’t want to move. We want to farm, live and die there’. Protesters had been blocked from attending an information meeting about the project. The official who met with the protesters said that, in spite of their opposition, the administration would continue with plans for the airport.

An industry report, by CAPA (Centre for Aviation), a leading aviation consultancy, states that Kulon Progo airport will impact on approximately 2,800 households, and that it will be pursued in spite of resistance: ‘project will proceed as planned despite facing a backlash from Kulon Progo and Glagah residents, according to Yogyakarta governor’. Land acquisition ‘problems’ are first noted in March 2014, and yet it is ‘accelerating’ in spite of this. Claims of a ‘socialisation’ process sound sanitised, far from reassuring.

An interesting, alarming, detail in the CAPA report is that the new Yogyakarta airport requires 68 square kilometres of land. This is far more than could be necessary for airport operations. For example, Heathrow is the third busiest passenger airport in the world and the site is just over 12 square kilometres. It appears that the planned new Yogyakarta airport is if fact an ‘aerotropolis’, an airport surrounded by commercial development - such as shops, hotels, conference and exhibition facilities, business premises. This of course entails appropriation of larger areas of land than traditional airports built solely to serve established settlements. Here is information about a couple of examples of ongoing land disputes for aerotropolis projects - Taoyuan in Taiwan and Andal in India.

On the northern tip of Taiwan, the Taoyuan Aerotropolis project threatens the biggest land expropriation in the country’s history. Over 3,700 hectares, predominantly farmland, have been earmarked for the development. 15,000 households, a total of 46,000 people, could face forced eviction for the 'Aerotropolis' megaproject. Since I wrote the previous blogpost, about the series of demonstrations against the project, I came across video of an extraordinary ‘paper plane protest’ against; 2 minutes 45 seconds in demonstrators throw paper planes covered in blood-like red paint at the police. Evictions for Taoyuan were scheduled to begin this year. But sustained protest, and sweeping changes following recent local government elections, have at least put spanners in the works. Taoyuan’s new mayor has ordered a probe into alleged corruption – specifically misuse of public funds and illegally favouring particular groups – but he maintains a stance of firm commitment to the overall project.

This is a video of farmers obstructing construction work on Andal Aerotropolis, in November 2013. I don’t understand the language, Bengali, but the farmers’ distress is evident as they block a road and obstruct bulldozers. Officials are brandishing batons and some police have guns. This report from Sanhati, Andal Aerotropolis: A Fact-Finding Report, is based on a 2009 investigation into the effects on farmers facing land compulsory land acquisition, and, even more importantly, agricultural labours who do not own any land and therefore are not entitled to any compensation. In March 2010 protests escalated into violence when farm labourers and sharecroppers demonstrated outside the project camps, demanding compensation and a halt to the project. Project administrators were unresponsive and protesters began vandalising the camps and police responded with a baton charge, storming into villages and indiscriminately arresting people. Protest continue. In December 2014 landholders who had given land to the project brought work on overhead cables to a halt, demanding more compensation as extra land had been taken to build the transmission towers.

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