Airport development features heavily in a plan for tourism-oriented megaprojects on Little Andaman Island, the southernmost island of the Andaman archipelago. Graphics below, from the 58-page ‘Sustainable Development of Little Andaman Island – Vision Document’, show: Zone 1, on the eastern coast, featuring an Aerocity, housing an international airport, envisaged as ‘the catalyst for development of the district’; Zone 2, on the southern coast, including a Leisure Zone and Tourism SEZ (special economic zone) with casinos, theme park and beach hotels; Zone 3, on the western coast, a Nature Zone containing super-luxury resorts and hotels, with an airstrip for private charter flights.
Sudden news of the plan, in January 2021, alarmed conservationists. The ‘Vision Document’, thought to have been finalised a few months previously but not in the public domain, is included in ‘A MONUMENTAL FOLLY: NITI Aayog’s Development Plans for Great Nicobar Island (An evolving archive of reports, information and documents)’, compiled by Panjaj Sekhsaria and published by Kalvpavriksh Environmental Action Group. The total project area is nearly 240 sq km, 35% of the island; the three zones would take up 107 kilometres of the island’s coastline. Development of this scale would have major impacts on indigenous people and the island’s unique biodiversity and forests. Little Andaman is home to the Onge tribe, living on the island for more than 50,000 years, the population dwindling since 1900. Now numbering an estimated 125 people the Onge tribe is categorised as one of India’s Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTG). According to the plan the Onge Tribal Reserve would be reduced by 31%; the Vision Document states that steps would be taken to relocate and protect Onge people but no detail is given. An anthropologist pointed out that bringing areas where Onge, with nomadic origins, do not live into the proposed development would still impact them, saying “the Onges have a close attachment with their territory be it inhabited or not”.
The Divisional Forest Officer of Little Andaman raised concerns that the major diversion of forest land for the project would cause irreversible damage to the island’s forests, entailing the loss of more than 2 million trees. An official source said there are over 2.4 million trees in the “vast tract of forests” in the areas where development is proposed. Removal of trees would cause topsoil erosion and reduce rainfall, impacting on the small area of the island with cultivable soil. Uprooting more than 2 million trees for the Little Andaman plan would also result in carbon emissions and carbon stock losses. Carbon pools were calculated for the four forest types in the development areas: nearly 136 sq km of Evergreen/Semi Evergreen and smaller areas of Deciduous, Swamp/Mangrove and Plantation forests. A study estimated that implementation of the ‘Sustainable Development of Little Andaman – Vision Document’ would result in carbon stock loss of 2,996.286 tonnes from five categories of carbon pools: 55% from woody debris and soil organic matter, 32% from above ground living biomass, 9% from below ground biomass, 3% from dead mass of litter and 1% from dead wood.
Nesting sites of Giant Leatherback Turtles, the world’s largest turtles growing over 6 feet in length, with many populations in precipitous decline, are threatened by the Little Andaman plan. South Bay and West Bay on Little Andaman are both high-intensity nesting sites and among the most important in the entire island chain. Along with other nesting beaches on the islands, the two sites are specifically mentioned as ‘Important Marine Turtles Habitats in India’ in the National Marine Turtle Action Plan. There are fears that implementation of the ‘vision’ would push the leatherback turtles to the brink of extinction. A 2019 report on a long-term monitoring programme at Little Andaman island identified previously unknown migratory routes of Great Leatherback Turtle nesting in the region, highlighting their dependence upon foraging and nesting sites that are thousands of kilometres apart. Nine tracked turtles traversed much of the Indian Ocean, as far southeast as Western Australia and towards the eastern coast of Africa. The turtle travelling the furthest, close to the western coast of Mozambique, covered 13,237km in 266 days; it was also the fastest, travelling an average of 49.8km per day.
More information about the Little Andaman plan has been published on EJatlas, the world’s largest, most comprehensive online database of social conflict around environmental issues: Little Andaman Development Plan
Thousands of farmers and residents have urged the Tamil Nadu state government and Central government of India not to implement a proposed second Chennai airport in Parandur that would destroy their agrarian activities and livelihoods. Parandur is an agricultural area in the Kanchipuram district and the State government plans to acquire land in 12 villages for the airport project. The proposed site in Purandur is approximately 57 kilometres eastwards of the existing Chennai Airport and to the north of the Chennai-Bangalore national highway which is being constructed in stages. Below is a slideshow of a map of the proposed airport site and Google Earth satellite imagery showing several of the villages that might be impacted by land acquisition.
A Times of India article states that the 12 villages from which land for the airport will be acquired are: Parandur, Valathur, Nelvoy, Thandalam, Polavur (Podavur), Madapuram, Ekanapuram, Akkammapuram, Singilipadi, Mahadevi Mangalam, Gunakarambakkam and Edayarpakkam. Other villages to be impacted by land acquisition are listed in other sources referenced in this blogpost, namely Nagapattu, Koothavakkam, Uthyarpakkam and OM Mangalam.
Concerns over acquisition of farmland and environmental issues
On 1st August Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation Vijay Kumar Singh announced that the Parandur site has been finalised after consultation with the Tamil Nadu government. Some Purandar residents demanded suitable replacement land and employment from the government in return for acquiring their land; others said that acquisition of their agricultural land will render them jobless as it is the only work they have known. Some villagers have spoken to media outlets about reluctance to give up their land and uncertainty over provision of compensation:
Ramasamy, from Ekanpuram village, said “A huge tract of our agricultural land would come under this project. We don’t want to lose our agricultural land for this project because farming is our sole source of livelihood.”
Jayakumar, a farmer from Singilipadi, said, “We have been living here for generations. We didn’t know that the airport is coming up here. No one has informed us. If the government suddenly takes away our homes and land, what would we do? Even if they provide compensation, we don’t know what that would be. I am shocked.”
Rajendran, a resident of Thandalam, said, “We are ready to give up land if needed. But we need assurance from the government about good compensation and employment.
Selvaraj from Parandur village said, “We’ve been here in the village for the last 50 years. As per the map released by the government, 5 villages would be destroyed for constructing a new airport. Even if the government gave us compensation for our land, we don’t know what to do for a living, since we know only farming. All of us are shocked by this decision and are planning for a big protest soon. Even last month, the district collector assured us that the airport would not be constructed in Parandur.”
Nachiyappan, a farmer from Koothavakkam, said, ”We are living by farming and if the government acquires our land what will we do for a living? I have small children and want to educate them and am the sole breadwinner for the family. The government will make all sweet talking, but in reality, nothing will happen and we will be the losers. We will protest strongly against this project that will destroy our livelihood as well as the flora and fauna of the area.”
A postgraduate in Economics from Koothavakkam, R. Bindu, said, “Around 800 houses would be demolished in the area and the agrarian economy will be totally destroyed. There are many people in this village who don’t have the patta or the legal rights of the land and they will be totally on the streets.”
Many villagers are employed by the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) and are concerned that their livelihoods could be destroyed along with the agricultural fields.
An environmental expert pointed out several hydrological problems that might arise from construction of the airport, from decreased recharge of groundwater to deterioration of water quality and possible flooding during the monsoon. The 4,791-acre site is dotted with water bodies and a large proportion, 2,605 acres, is wetlands. A large number of migratory bird species, especially from eastern Europe, visit the site. Some of the birds fly south to Vedanthangal which would pose a bird strike risk to air traffic. Building a stable structure on wetlands would be challenging. Parandur has a lake where migrant birds – tufted ducks, flamingos and common pochards – are frequently spotted.
An airport on a 4,791-acre site, with a huge aerocity
The proposal is for the new airport, with two runways, to have capacity to handle 100 million passengers annually, almost five times higher than the capacity of the existing Chennai Airport, at 22 million passengers per year. Capacity at Chennai Airport is being increased to 35 million in a seven-year expansion project. The runways at the airport in Purandar would be larger than at Chennai Airport, enabling it to handle larger aircraft carrying more than 600 passengers. Tamil Nadu chief minister Muthuvel Karunanidhi Stalin said the initial estimated cost of the proposed airport is Rs20,000 Crore, more than USD2.5 billion. Details of the break-up of this sum, and the funding route, have yet to be made public.
A Times of India article states that ‘The plan is to develop a huge aero city with facilities for maintenance and repairs, aviation ancillary units, and commercial establishments’. Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) Tamil Nadu Chapter chairman Satyakam Arya has pushed for an aerocity around the new airport, which in addition to aviation related facilities could have a convention centre for global conferences and exhibitions. Shankar Vanavarayar, vice-chairman of CII Tamil Nadu, said the state may introduce special schemes and incentives for industries in order to spur industrialization from Chennai towards Parandur.
The proposed site for the Parandur airport, 4,791 acres (1,939 hectares), is certainly large enough to allocate a significant portion of the site for non-aviation facilities. It is larger than the world’s largest airport, Hartsfield Jackson in Atlanta USA, which, with five parallel runways and a site of 1,902 hectares, handled more than 110.5 million passengers in 2019, before traffic reduced worldwide due to the response to Covid-19. In addition to the 4,791-acre site a further 200 acres of land is required for construction of two airstrips, for which the process of surveys and land acquisition is likely to start soon.
Difficulties acquiring thousands of acres for the airport
Land availability has been the main hurdle stalling the second Chennai airport project since it was first mooted, in 1998. Many attempts at large-scale land acquisition failed until authorities zeroed in on Parandur and an article in The Hindu provides a timeline. In November 2000 a ‘futuristic terminal’ was anticipated on a 3,000-acre site likely to be at Porur in west Meenambakkam, north of the existing Chennai Airport. In May 2007 the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Muthuvel Karunanidhi, said that 4,820 acres would be acquired for the airport in Sriperumbudur. In 2016 the proposed greenfield airport, still planned in the vicinity of Sriperumbudur, was mired in land procurement problems. Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha said the thousands of acres required for the new airport were difficult to procure.
In January 2022 the Airports Authority of India (AAI) began to study four potential alternative sites identified by the State government: Pannur, Parandur, Padalam and Thiruporur. Subsequently this list was narrowed down to Pannur and Parandur. On 1st August 2022 Minister of State for Civil Aviation Vijay Kumar Singh said the Tamil Nadu government had shortlisted Parandur as the site for development of a second Chennai airport. The State government will now submit a proposal to the Ministry of Civil Aviation for ‘grant of site clearance’ for the finalised site. The State is also set to begin preparation of a detailed project report. Land acquisition is likely to begin once the State receives approval from the Centre. State government officials have confirmed they will conduct sittings in all affected villages allowing people to express their views to officials.
2010 protest against land acquisition in Sriperumbudur
The article with the project timeline in The Hindu does not mention that the 2007 identification of land for the airport in Sriperumbudur triggered mass protest by villagers resisting land acquisition. In 2010 Moverment against SEZs in Tamil Nadu reported that a 6,921-acre (2,800-hectare) site in Sriperumbudur, located eastward of Parandur and just 30 kilometres from Chennai’s existing airport, had been earmarked for a greenfield airport. The proposed land acquisition for the new airport threatened to displace 2,800 families, about 37,000 people, from 20 villages. Village representatives opposed the airport project and were not interested in compensation from the government. They said agriculture was viable in the proposed site where they cultivated rice paddies, mangos, jasmine trees and vegetables. The site also containing 77 lakes, 120 ponds and 10,000 trees which would be felled. Six village panchayats – Thirumanaikuppam, Vadamangalam, Vayalur, Thirupandiyur, Kottaiyur and Kiloy – passed resolutions opposing land acquisition in a gram sabha meeting.
Villagers drove away officials sent to survey the land on at least three occasions. On 12 August 2010, 3,000 people from 26 villages demonstrated against the project. Police attacked them with a lathi (baton) charge. Villagers who went to meet the District Officer and attempted to present a petition were beaten and around 20 of them had to be admitted to hospital. A jet fuel pipeline to Chennai Airport, routed through Sriperumbudur, seemingly hardwired the area for development of a new airport. Inaugurating the fuel pipeline in 2009 Praful Patel, Minister of State for Civil Aviation from 2004 to 2011, said, “This (pipeline) also passes through Sriperumbudur where another airport is planned. Once it comes up, the pipeline will be extremely useful.”
Lio Tourism Estate, a masterplanned luxurious development in El Nido, on the northern tip of Palawan – owned by Ayala, one of the largest conglomerates in the Philippines, and operated by one of its many subsidiaries, Ten Knots Philippines Inc. (TKPI) – encompasses a large 325-hectare site. As well as high-end hotels the resort contains its own private airport, Lio Airport, owned and operated by TKPI for the exclusive use of its aircraft. As with most airports worldwide the response to Covid-19 led to Lio Airport reducing operations, but by March 2022 about 600 passengers were flying in and out each day. AirSwift Philippines operates flights between Lio Airport and Manila. There is also a jetty port for visitors to embark on island-hopping boat trips. The tourism project, on a former copra (coconut) farm, began with construction of the airport and seaport to provide access, followed by accommodation and retail facilities. Shown below are satellite imagery and a site development plan published by a property firm.
But the Tagbanua Tandulanen Indigenous People (IP) claim that the project encroaches on their ancestral lands. In April 2021 their attorneys requested that the Department of Tourism (DOT) and Local Government Unit of El Nido cancel, revoke or deny applications for building permits and licenses for more than seven Ayala-owned businesses and projects in El Nido, including Lio Tourism Estate and Lio Airport. The IP group claimed ‘rampant and widespread’ proliferation of illegal transfers and conversion of their ancestral domain. On 15th March 2022, following reports of projects and activities that did not comply with Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) requirements, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) intervened in the land dispute, issuing a cease-and-desist-order (CDO) ordering temporary halt of projects in Barangays Libertad and Pasadeña. After issuing four notices to comply with the CDO NCIP issued a show cause order to TKPI on 13th February 2022. In March Tagbanua Tandulanen IP’s legal counsel said the group been sending letters to TKPI for two years without receiving a serious response and urged NCIP to maintain the CDO.
Extending northwards of the tourism estate developed area and Lio Airport is a 4.2 kilometre stretch of white sand beach, also part of the resort. In September 2017 the management of Lio Tourism Estate dismissed accusations that its recently opened upscale resort had blocked access to the public beach in front of it for residents of Barangay Villa Libertad. The issue stemmed from a complaint to the Palawan Provincial Board’s Environment Committee. A month previously Board Member Winston Arzaga said they had been asked by local officials to help resolve the issue, saying “The cause of it all is the access of local fishermen to their traditional fishing grounds which the Ayala management had somehow restricted.” A Safeguards Due Diligence Report for El Nido tourism development, prepared by the Tourism Infrastructure and Economic Zone Authority (TIEZA) for the Asian Development Bank (ADB), published in May 2021, includes notes of a consultation on fisheries management concerns and livelihood projects with Barangay Officials of Villa Libertad, which covers Lio beach, part of Lio Tourism Estate. Dwindling fish catch was the major fisheries issue identified by informants, resulting from overfishing and a reduced fishing area. Declining fish catch and reduced access to fishing grounds was also mentioned in relation to three other Ayala resorts in El Nido, on the islands of Miniloc, Pangulasian and Lagen.
More information about the land dispute and issues with access to fishing grounds related to Lio Tourism Estate and Lio Airport has been published on EJatlas, the world’s largest, most comprehensive online database of social conflict around environmental issues: Lio Tourism Estate and Lio Airport
Plans for airport city style development at Nadzab Airport – located 42km to the northwest of Lae, capital of the Morobe Province and Papua New Guinea’s second largest city – emerged in a 2011 masterplan for future growth of the airport both as an aeronautical hub and as a commercial and industrial centre. Nadzab Airport’s extensive land holding was earmarked for development and expansion over a time-frame of 50-70 years. The graphic below, showing a business hub next to the airport, is from Nadzab Central Strategic Plan, produced by Planpac and identifying development opportunities for 700 hectares of greenfield land.
Tensions between clans over ownership of land parcels date back to the inception of the airport project, in 1972 when the country was under Australian colonial administration. A loan agreement between the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the PNG government – for ¥26,942 million (USD225.2 million) of an estimated project cost of ¥32,246 million (USD269.6 million) – was signed on 14th October 2015 and the project came to be known as Nadzab Airport Redevelopment Plan (NARP). Plans for an Airport City were mentioned in 2017 and in February 2020 NARP project manager said it was a major airport and city development and the provincial government must help address landowner issues. Prime Minister James Marape tasked Lands and Planning Minister John Rosso to start mobilising landowners in preparation for the project. In April 2021 PNG National Airports Corporation (NAC) managing director and chief executive Rex Kiponge said that upon completion of NARP the airport city concept would be rolled out, saying “When the airport is complete, the commercial aspects of the airport business hub must complement it.”
The village of Gabsongkeg is at the centre of NARP and landowners have made repeated calls for consultation, participation in the project and spin-off business opportunities. In 2020 landowners were disappointed that construction and security contracts were awarded to outsiders overlooking reputable local businesses. In January 2022 it was reported that only a small number of landowners were benefitting from leasing their customary land for associated businesses. Local people impacted by airport development still lack clean running water, electricity and adequate health facilities. NARP and other projects, such as a 4-lane highway and gold and copper mining, have triggered an influx of people, disrupting the social fabric and leading to increased social problems including violence, killings and drug & alcohol abuse. The area lacks a police station to address these issues.
Serious social problems of rape, underage marriage and prostitution specifically harm women. And women have been marginalized in land-related negotiations and decisions due to government assumptions of patrilineal land descent. Yet in the midst of these difficulties 60 Gabsongkeg women – planning ahead as most of the land in Gabsongkeg where coconut, plantain, cocoa and other trees are cultivated, is set to be taken over by the Nadzab township development – have established table markets selling food and other goods. They have increased their incomes and aim to grow their ventures into small-medium sized enterprises to support their families in the future.
A drive to evict informal settlers living on parcels of land around Jacksons Airport, Papua New Guinea’s main airport located to the northeast of Port Moresby, was announced in the early days of 2022. Residents of the Saiwara community protested being issued with several eviction notices over the past year by the National Airports Corporation (NAC), the most recent giving them until the end of the month to vacate the area. A petition against the eviction was signed by 5,000 residents and a representative stated that they had been paying a traditional landowner for the land. Many tax-paying small and medium sized enterprises (SME’s) also urged the government to stop the evictions. A video by EMTV Online shows men, women and children protesting, some holding up placards with statements such as ‘No Eviction Please’, ‘No Eviction, What is Government doing For My Future’.
Simultaneous with the eviction drive in Saiwara, NAC began pressuring residents to vacate Erima, another area adjacent to Jacksons Airport. A group of policemen visited communities and issued eviction notices. A long term resident said, “Police said the land close to the airport belongs to the National Airports Corporation and people must move out before the eviction date.” NAC managing director Rex Kiponge stated that the land belonged to NAC and that people must vacate the land by the end of January. He said, “I personally witnessed and heard from the police that any settlement or houses near the airport must be immediately moved out of force will be applied” and urged people living in the affected area to find a place to resettle.
A graphic in the EMTV Online video shows the parcels of land surrounding Jacksons Airport that the NAC lays claim to and where residents have been served with eviction notices. NAC managing director Rex Kiponge explained that the eviction drive was a strategic move to utilize the land for a non-aeronautical revenue stream, i.e. generation of revenue from sources other than airlines. (Typical sources of non-aeronautical revenue include retail, hotels, tourism facilities, business premises, real estate and car parking.) Kiponge also mentioned another hallmark characteristic of an aerotropolis/airport city: aspiriations for an airport to become a destination in its own right. He said that eviction of people from land around Jacksons Airport would support NAC’s new policy, namely ‘Converting Airports from Point of Transit to Point of Destination’. NAC’s focus on development of land for non-aeronautical purposes has been galvanised by a collapse in its revenue stream due to the drastic reduction in air traffic since the Covid-19 pandemic. Previously, NAC’s revenue had consisted of 80% from aeronautical business and 20% from non-aeronautical business. Kiponge said the NAC needed to start generating its own revenue and recouping its assets was in line with this aim.
Following questions in Parliament from member for Moresby North East, John Kaupa, PNG Prime Minister James Marape intervened, assuring settlers on airport-owned land at Erima and Saiwara that they would not be evicted by the NAC until a permanent solution was reached. He asked NAC to freeze their eviction plan. But the settlers are still under pressure to leave; Marape warned them not to move in onto state land and start building structures if they are not in possession of titles, saying that the Government would not step in to assist anyone on humanitarian grounds.
The current drive to evict communities living around Jacksons Airport is the latest in a series. In February 2017 police evicted more than 200 families who were living on state-owned land in Erima Bridge. Some of them had lived in makeshift and semi-permanent housing for more than 20 years. The officer in charge of Jacksons Airport said the police were acting on the orders of the land owned by the NAC and that over the course of a week all the houses and tents in the area in question had been removed. It was reported that they were left sleeping out in cold, wet weather conditions for a few days. Their only shelter was wooden frames and roofing iron and they had no food, water or clothing. A settler who had moved to Erima from the Highlands region said some people whose homes were destroyed had not received an eviction notice. At the time of the Erima Bridge eviction the Asian Development Bank (ADB) confirmed support for expansion of Jacksons Airport, signing an agreement with NAC to develop a new international passenger terminal. In May 2015 a demolition exercise at another settlement near Jacksons Airport, 7 mile, left more than 200 people homeless. Some of them were beaten up by the eviction squad. Evictees lost all they owned during the demolition and some homes were burned down. The eviction was part of NAC’s development plan for Jacksons Airport.
In Wales, UK, plans for an ‘aerospace business park’ on farmland next to Cardiff Airport are facing strong oppostion from locals. The land targetted for the development encompasses Model Farm, upon which the Jenkins family, having held the tenancy for three generations, since 1935, rear beef cattle and grow cereals and wildflower seeds that are sold throughout Wales. They were shocked when they were served with an eviction notice by the landowner: Legal & General, a financial services and asset management company. Within a short space of time a group aiming to save Model Farm, Vale Communities Unite, gained thousands of supporters and raised funds for legal fees to appeal the decision to grant permission decision. A protest was held outside the Senedd (Welsh Parliament) on 21st August 2021.
Gethin Jenkins said “We have been heartened by the local support we have had – people are aghast at the scale of what is planned.” Previously, he had told the Planning Committee: “Anything that will be built here, could also be built on a brownfield site within a three-mile radius. If you allow this development, you will not only be taking away my family’s farming future and my son’s home, you will be denying all future generations their right to see a vibrant countryside on their doorstep. One it’s built on, it’s gone forever.”
His son Rhys explained that his father had worked hard to create a productive farm, establishing a water supply including pipes and tanks in every field so that livestock could be kept in them. Improving soil condition was a long-term and complex project that had taken 60 years. Worried about the effects on his father and his future on the farm he said “I’ve grown up and thought I would farm, it’s all I wanted to do. It’s a kick in the teeth seeing my dad get upset. He’s worked his whole life, as has his father, to make the farm a success.”
Vale of Glamorgan Council Planning Committee had granted planning permission for the business park Despite more than 1,000 public objections. The prevalent reasons for objections were summarised as:
• Traffic congestion and lack of provision for new transport infrastructure
• Loss of farmland/ opposition to eviction of tenant farmer
• Detriment to local heritage assets
• Detriment to residents’ wellbeing and amenity
• Lack of need and justification the development, in this location
• Detrimental visual and landscape impact/ loss of open countryside
• Opposition to proposed Porthkerry Country Park extension
• Not sustainable/ will greatly contribute to climate change
• Nature/ habitat loss, detriment to ecology and biodiversity
• Loss of trees/ impact to ancient woodlands
• Local drainage infrastructure inadequate to accommodate development
• Flooding and contamination
• Opposition to illustrated Rapid Transit Corridor
• Procedural matters
The proposed business park site forms part of the Cardiff Airport-St. Athan Enterprise Zone, which the Local Development Plan states will provide a mixed use “airport city” development. In September 2021 the business park plan was stalled; Vale of Glamorgan Council quashed planning permission, accepting that Viability Information had not been included as it should have been within the Officers’ Report. The planning permission decision will be subject to a judicial review and considered in court before the matter goes back to the planning committee for another decision. Councillor Andrew RT Davies welcomed the news, urging members of the planning committee to reject the application when it comes back before them. He said: “The decision to grant permission at Model Farm was a betrayal of Rhoose and surrounding villages, so I am extremely pleased it has been quashed.” Local resident and Vale Communities Unite campaigner Maxine Levett said: “We’re very happy, we feel very relieved and very ecstatic that we have got to this point. We feel we have had some justice from the dismissive way that planning was conducted.”
In 2003 construction of an international airport in Sikhuphe, Swaziland was initiated by King Mswati III, who rules the country as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. From its inception commentators warned that the new airport was a waste of resources, diverting funding away from vital projects to fight poverty in Swaziland. In contrast with the one in seven of the coutnry’s inhabitants living in abject poverty King Mswati III enjoyed a lavish lifestyle with 13 palaces, fleets of luxury cars and a private jet.
In March 2014, presiding over an expensive opening ceremony, King Mswati III unveiled the name of the new airport: King Mswati III International Airport. In the lead up to this event he had announced that a new town would be established to support the new airport, which would bring development to the surrounding communities, including Mbadlane, Hlane and Malindza. He proclaimed “After a radius of about five kilometres from the airport, urban structures will be constructed.” More than three years later, in October 2017, the Times of Swaziland reported that King Mswati III International Airport had ‘brought nothing but misery to hundreds of residents of Sikhuphe, in Malindza, where the airfield was constructed’. They had not received any compensation for their relocation, despite a consultant’s recommendation that a sum of approximately US$6 million be allocated for resettlement of 188 homesteads falling within the boundary of the so-called ‘airport city’.
There was a series of protests over impacts of airport and road construction and lack of compensation in 2021. In September, Malindza residents protested disruption of their water supply caused by construction of a road serving the airport, and demanded its restoration. They had been left struggling to access water to sustain their cultivation of vegetables and rearing of livestock after a dam was destroyed by Inyatsi, a firm with close connections to the government which was awarded construction contracts for King Mswati III International Airport along with a major highway connecting South Africa to Mozambique via the airport. In November a group of about 200 residents blocked Inyatsi’s trucks from entering the quarry near King Mswati III International Airport. It was their third protest in three months. In November 2021 some of the residents of Malindza who were displaced to make way for the project and whose houses were damaged by blasting works during construction – of the airport and road leading to it – were still demanding compensation. Blasting had caused cracks in their houses. A group of residents, mainly women, protested for almost a week and camped in the bushes. They had lost patience after struggling for compensation for almost 20 years.
Construction of a major new airport on the Albanian coast, along with tourism development on adjoining sites, is imminent. A map of the Vlora Airport project plan shows an airport adjoined by several development areas – naturalistic area, sport area, winery area, hotel and resort area, new marina, residential and agricultural area, beach and wooded area. The project is opposed by many organizations, as outlined in a description of the case on EJatlas, the world’s largest, most comprehensive online database of social conflict around environmental issues.
A wide range of groups are concerned over damaging impacts on unique wildlife habitats. The site lies within the Vjosa-Narta Protected Landscape, one of the largest near-natural wetland complexes along the Adriatic coast, encompassing the Vjosa River (one of few remaining free-flowing rivers in Europe), Narta Lagoon and other wetlands, marshlands, reed beds, woodlands, islands and sandy beaches. The area designated for Vlora Airport and associated development is at the mouth of the Vjosa River, next to Narta Lagoon which is populated by many bird species, most notably flamingos and the endangered Dalmatian pelican. The coastline forms part of the ‘Adriatic Flyway’, a migration corridor which runs across the Balkans, the Adriatic and Southern Italy over to North Africa and is a followed by water birds of Central, Northern and Eastern Europe. During migration hundreds of thousands of birds forage and shelter in the area. Aeroplane flightpaths would be incompatible with flocks of flying birds, in particular large birds like flamingos, pelicans, herons and gulls. Birdstrikes, collisions with aircraft, might occur, placing both air passengers and birds at risk.
Local NGO Protection and Preservation of Natural Environment in Albania (PPNEA) researched the plans and raised awareness about threats posed to local ecosystems. EuroNatur called for an environmental impact assessment (EIA) meeting global standards. A broader alliance criticising the airport land developed. In March 2021 a letter to the European Commision and Parliament by a coalition of NGOs, calling for support in urging the Albanian government to reconsider plans for the airport and tourism resorts in order to protect Vjosa-Narta, was signed by more than 40 organisations. The concession to build Vlora Airport was awarded to a consortium led by Mabetex Group in March 2021, on very generous terms. If Vlora Airport’s passenger numbers and profits are not as high as expected the project could cost Albanian taxpayers EUR 138 million. Clauses in the contract state that taxpayers must pay up to this sum should the concession fail or be unprofitable.
Despite constant pressure from national and international NGOs, the Albanian government persists in supporting the Vlora Airport project. On 28th November 2021 President Edi Rama opened the construction site. When the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was published a preliminary anaysis by experts from Albanian environmental and scientific researchs organisations siad it was ‘baised’ and identified striking deficiencies. The most important aspects not addressed by the EIA were:
The designated area is in an internationally recognised nature reserve could result in sanctions under the provisions of the Bern convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats
Lack of involvement of international experts in the decision-making process
Risk of natural disasters such as floods, anticipated to increase due to climate change, not taken into account
Speaking in a TRT World video environmentalist Jon Vorpsi questioned the necessity of a new international airport with the country’s main airport located just an hour and a half away. Mirjan Topji of the Birds of Albania group said that Narta lagoon is vital for the survival of Dalmation pelicans and raised concerns over air safety should aircraft collide with birds. Owner of a nearby fish restaurant, Arsen Lambro, disagreed with government claims that the new airport will boost tourism, saying the destruction of ecosystems, flora and fauna would reduce the number of visitors. Yet construction of Vlora Airport is set to begin soon. In January 2022 local ornithologists said noise from trucks and excavators was already scaring pelicans and flamingos away.
AGHAM – Advocates of Science and Technology for the People vehemently condemns the detention and harassment of fisherfolk and youth in Malolos, Bulacan, and urges government agencies, in particular the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), to investigate human rights violations related to the construction of San Miguel Corporation’s 2,500-hectare New Manila International Airport (Bulacan Aerotropolis).
According to AKAP KA Manila Bay, two armed men detained around forty fisherfolk, including six minors, from Sitio Balot, Brgy. Pamarawan, Malolos, Bulacan around noon on October 29 . The fisherfolk were brought to the military detachment in Sitio Dapdap, Brgy. Taliptip, Bulakan, Bulacan. The armed men threatened to destroy the fisherfolk’s boats if they wouldn’t come to the military detachment. Due to this incident, the fisherfolk were not able to catch fish that day and were not even allowed to…
The second part of a two-part video, Aerotropolis: Evictions, Ecocide and Loss of Farmland, highlights damaging impacts of aerotropolis (airport city) projects on people and the environment. Evictions can be large scale and there are many instances of human rights violations. Allocation of large greenfield sites places farmland, forests, wetlands and coastal ecosystems at risk.
The video looks at 14 aerotropolis-type projects: Central Transport Port-CPK (Poland), Manchester Airport City (UK), Airport City Gatwick/Horley Business Park (UK), New Mexico City Airport (NAICM), (Mexico), Santa Lucia Airport (Mexico), Northwest Florida Beaches Airport (US), Vernamfield Aerotropolis (Jamaica), Hamilton Aerotropolis (Canada), Pickering Airport/Toronto East Aerotropolis (Canada), Mattala Airport (Sri Lanka), Nijgadh Airport (Nepal), Istanbul Airport (Turkey), Bulacan Aerotropolis (the Philippines) and Sanya Hongtangwan Airport (China). For further information see the comprehensive Reference list of all source material, including photos and other images. Part 1 of the video can be viewed here.