The ZAD (Zone A Defendre or Zone to Defend) in France is variously described as an occupation, a no-go area of radical militants, a resistance community, and the proposed second airport for Nantes. During my first visit to La ZAD I explored some of the reasons that people have made this beautiful place their home.
Cycling or driving into La ZAD you may be unaware that you have entered it but after a time you may come to a signpost which no longer has a place name, but instead has ‘ZAD’ spray painted pointing in each direction. Or you may come across a road with artistic barricades, a burnt out car with plants growing through it, or damaged tarmac. Whilst now, all is peaceful farmland, gardens and communities of hand-built houses, it’s clear that something big happened here a few years ago. If you want to orientate yourself and begin to explore this special…
GAAM has posted a video playlist Aviation expansion – resisting displacement on our YouTube channel. All over the world communities are resisting displacement for airport expansion and new airports. Airport development on greenfield sites often entails concreting over agricultural land, and rural communities fight against loss of their land and livelihoods. People living in slums near airports face an uncertain future and are fighting for secure and decent housing. Already there are 14 videos on the list – campaigns in many countries including Cambodia, India, South Africa, Turkey, Laos, Taiwan and Mexico. GAAM would will be adding more films to the list, do let us know of any videos that should be included.
A book written by some of the occupants of the ZAD (Zone a Défendre) – a site in Western France which has been occupied for over 9 years – in resistance against the construction of the planned Notre-Dame-des-Landes airport. Over 5,000 acres of farmland and wetladns would be destroyed. Evictions and mass protests are documented, and the sustained solidarity which has held the ZAD together for so many years. The ZAD is a ray of hope in the resistance against destructive megaprojects.
The long struggle for justice for affected people facing displacement for Taoyuan Aerotropolis continues. Planned land expropriation for Taoyuan Aerotropolis would be the largest in the history of Taiwan, taking up 4,700 hectares of land, mostly consisting of prime agricultural land, about 3,200 hectares of this land would be expropriated and 46,000 people face eviction from their homes and farmland.
On 30th September, residents from the group Alliance Against Aerotropolis Forced Evictions protested at the Ministry of Transportation and Communications over their concerns that some people will be excluded from upcoming hearings regarding the Taoyuan Aerotropolis project, submitting petitions requesting permission that they be included. The first phase of Taoyuan Aerotropolis is a third runway at the airport, the necessity of which the protesters said must be reconsidered, and development immediately surrounding it. The second phase is development over a wider area. Owners of property scheduled to be expropriated for the project’s second phase have not been invited to attend. Alliance spokesperson Wang Pao-hsuan argued that they should be able to attend as their property is included in government plans and will be forbidden from building on their land if the project is approved.
Environmental Jurists Association director Thomas Chan said that plans for the aerotropolis should ‘start from scratch’ in the light of a new ruling on from the Council of Grand Justice, which found that land should only be expropriated for infrastructure projects. This is pertinent to the planned Taoyuan Aerotropolis, which includes industrial and business parks, plus residential districts.
The 30th September demonstration is one of many protests against forcible land expropriation for the aerotropolis. On 11th March 2015, 300 people gathered outside government buildings in Taipei, capital city of Taiwan, demanding formal hearings . Photo by Coulloud, Creative Commons License
As with so many of the endless protests by people facing eviction for Taoyuan Aerotropolis, the demonstrators met with a heavy police presence.
In March, Kuzey Ormanları Savunması (the ‘North Forest Defence’) which campaigns to protect the forests to the north of Istanbul from industrialization and urbanization, published a 100 page comprehensive report into Istanbul’s third airport, currently under construction. Entitled The Third Airport Project: Vis-a-Vis Life, Nature, Environment, People and Law, this report has been translated into English. It exposes the ecological destruction of the project, and examines the drive for economic growth and corporate profits that is the real reason it is being so relentlessly pursued by the government and firms that stand to benefit.
The site is gigantic, over 76 square kilometres. About 80 per cent of this area is forested, the remainder consists of 70 large and small lakes, meadows, farmland and coastline. All are being destroyed as airport construction progresses.
The reason for the gigantic site is that the plan is not for an airport. Land is being expropriated for an ‘aerotropolis’, an airport surrounded by commercial development that is designed to be aviation dependent and support growth of the airport.
Istanbul’s last large area of green space is being sacrificed for a vast urbanisation incorporating the world’s biggest duty-free shopping centre, hotels, a convention centre, sports centre, business space, a clinic and other facilities. Ostensibly, the land is allocated for an airport with the incredibly ambitious goal of handling 90 million passengers annually, ultimately becoming the world’s busiest airport with 150 million passengers passing through.
But even if the airport does indeed grow to handle this number of passengers, an eventuality regarded as unlikely within the aviation industry as well as by its critics, there will be plenty of space for commercial activity. North Forest Defence estimates the area surplus to requirements for aeronautical activities at 57 square kilometres. This is illustrated by comparison with the world’s busiest passenger airport, Atlanta in the USA, which, with a a far smaller land area of 1,625 hectares, handles about 95 million passengers per year.
Preparation of the site for construction commenced on approval of an Environmental Impact Analysis (EIA) that North Forest Defence’s work exposes as utterly inadequate, full of serious omissions and trivialising the impacts of the project. Lakes are described as ‘ponds’, the number of species at risk is under-reported and the bizarre claim is made that, of the 2.5 million trees earmarked for felling, over 1.8 million would be moved to another place, a mass replanting that is technically impossible. The reality is that the habitat of animal and plant species is being obliterated. Endangered bird species whose habitat is imperilled include the greater spotted eagle and the pygmy cormorant. Istanbul’s northern forests are one of the world’s major bird migration routes with hundreds of thousands flying over every spring and autumn. This means that the airport will endanger human life as well as birds, as there will be a considerably higher flight safety risk from bird strikes – collisions between birds and aircraft that can cause fatal air accidents.
Istanbul’s third airport has proceeded in the face of vigorous opposition from a broad coalition of environmental, community and civil organisations, plus professional associations of engineers, architects, scientists and economists. There have been endless campaign meetings and protests, in the centre of Istanbul and in villages affected by the project. The two photos below are of the protest to mark the groundbreaking ceremony for the airport, on 7th June 2014. A slideshow with more photos of this lively protest can be viewed here.
North Forest Defence’s report is also a powerful critique of the financing of the airport, and the economic implications. The tender to construct the airport and operate it for 25 years, the biggest in the history of Turkey, was awarded to a consortium of five firms, all with close ties to the government. These firms stand to profit from operating the airport, regardless of the actual level of traffic, because of a state guarantee of liabilities that may be incurred. The consortium’s economic benefit from the airport is also assured because of revenue guarantee of €6.3 billion over 12 years, from a fee levied on the projected 342 million international passengers over this period. There is a precedent for state payment to airport operators when the projected number of passengers fail to materialise; €27 million has been paid to reimburse the operator of three of Turkeys’ airports to compensate for a shortfall. Treasury guarantees mean that the economic risks of the project fall onto citizens.
Every Turkish citizen will incur debt due to the cost of the project, which has already escalated from $16 billion to $20 billion. The airport project is part of a construction and real estate speculation frenzy that serves as Turkey’s main economic stimulus, keeping up a flow of ‘hot money’ – international capital seeking short term profits from interest rate differences and anticipated shifts in currency exchange rates – that buoys up capital markets and keeps the plates spinning.
The campaign to stop construction of Istanbul’s third airport is bolstered by an extraordinary visual record of the ecological destruction that is underway – photographs and videos. It is highly unusual for a megaproject to be documented in this way and it is extremely effective in raising the alarm over the scale and severity of the ecocide that is happening. The site is crawling with hundreds of trucks excavating and dumping earth, the level of infill required to raise and level the site is estimated at 2.5 billion square metres, and compacting the soil is on the swampy site is proving problematic.
A video shows destruction of forests and meadows and filled in lakes, swathes of bare earth being worked by bulldozers, and piles of felled trees. There is nowhere left for the wild animals or for farmers to tend their sheep.
Video of storks, one of the 300 species of birds whose habitat is being destroyed for Istanbul’s third airport, flying around bewildered and traumatised in the immediate aftermath of their habitat being bulldozed.
This video, published in May 2015, shows the impact of airport construction on the coastal village of Yenikoy. It begins with a farmer explaining the ‘airport city’ plans, shows the farmland that is at risk as bulldozers move ever closer, then reveals the destruction of forest, lakes, farmland and coastline that is already underway.
Istanbul’s third airport is integrated with other ecologically destructive megaprojects – a multi-lane third bridge over the Bosphorus Strait and a canal running alongside it. Highways to provide surface access mean the loss of yet more green space. All these projects open up the virgin forests for further plunder and feed each others growth. Campaigners have stepped up their efforts to tackle these megaprojects as a package. North Forest Defence has joined forces with Istanbul Kent Suvanmasi (Istanbul City Defence) and on 5th July 2015 a new campaign was launched. The slogan is: ‘Stop the Killer Projects! Be the Breath of Istanbul‘. The forests north of Istanbul are depicted as the lungs of the city, providing oxygen for people and all life to breathe. As well as resisting the megaprojects the campaign is about envisioning and creating a future city which lives in harmony with nature rather than destroying it, taking forward the optimism that concludes North Forest Defence’s report into the third airport, the conviction that ‘it is in our hands to write another story’.
Kuzey Ormanları Savunması (the ‘North Forest Defence’) which campaigns to protect the forests to the north of Istanbul, has made an English language version of a shocking video. It documents the destruction of forests for the city’s third airport. Its ecocide: piles of felled trees; a long line of earth moving trucks nose to tail along the highway; bulldozers gouging away at the earth; forests, lakes and meadows destroyed. A sheep farmer explains that there is nowhere for him to tend his animals once the construction site is fenced off and fears dreadful consequences of the loss of the forest, it attracts rainfall that the city depends upon. The forest protectors want the world to know what is happening here. People sharing this video in English on social media are urged to use the hashtag #ResistAgainstInstanbul3rdAirport
The third airport is linked with other forest destroying megaprojects – a third bridge over the Bosphorus, a motorway and a canal linking the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara. On 26th March Kuzey Ormanları Savunması held a press conference during which architect Mücella Yapıcı warned of irreversible ecological damage from the airport and other megaprojects, and announced that several business chambers, including the Chamber of Architects and the Chamber of Engineers, have united to open a court case relating to two Environmental Impact Reports in court. Both reports, prepared for investors, emphasised serious ecological destruction, with Yapıcı stating ‘This is the massacre of Istanbul. We cannot just sit here silently and allow this’.
At the press conference, Kuzey Ormanları Savunması presented its latest report. Entitled ‘Life, Nature, Environment, Humanity and the Law against the Third Airport Project‘ (article in Turkish) it explains that the megaprojects – the bridge, highway, canal and airport – are interconnected and designed to feed each others’ growth. The report also reveals that the new airport is not just an airport; it is a plan for an aerotropolis (a city built around an airport), on a site of over 76 square kilometres. Even if the new airport reaches its stated goal of 150 million passengers per year (which would make it the world’s busiest airport), the land area far exceeds that which would be required for aeronautical operations. Currently, Atlanta Airport in the US is the world’s busiest passenger airport, handling 95 million passengers per year, covering a site of 16.25 square kilometres.
The aerotropolis plan is designed to trigger development on land surrounding it including business, cultural and sports complexes, sprawling over the last remaining pristine natural areas of the area. Negative environmental impacts from felling of forests include loss of climate regulation through oxygen production and carbon sequestration. There are serious concerns over the concreting over of lakes which is a threat to Istanbul’s water supply and the loss of habitat hosting an abundance of wildlife such as wolves, insects and at least 160 species of birds.
Plans for an aerotropolis surrounding Taoyuan Airport, in Taiwan, involve forcible land expropriation that threatens to displace 46,000 people. Resistance against the megaproject involves innovative artwork – most notably an Alternative Land Art Festival in December 2014, on part of the farmland that the government wants to acquire for the project. The focal point of the festival was a Lost Bear sculpture standing a full 8 metres high. The Lost Bear is going on display to the south of Taoyuan, in Miaoli County. You can read an article about this, Anti-Aerotropolis ‘Lost Bear’ to go on display in Miaoli, in the Taipei Times.