International communique against the New Mexico City Airport
EMERGENCE OF A BROAD NON-PARTY FRONT AGAINST THE NEW AIRPORT AND OTHER MEGAPROJECTS IN THE VALLEY OF MEXICO BASIN
Mexico City, 4 February 2016
In response to the announcement by the government of Enrique Peña Nieto to reactivate the construction of a new airport for Mexico City, more than 70 organizations of organized society in the East of the State of Mexico, Hidalgo state, the Federal District and the rest of the country during the Forum “All Voices against New Airport” and the Constituent Assembly on 10 and 11 November 2015 at the Ché Guevara Auditorium located next to the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters of the UNAM, agreed to the creation of a Broad Front with a horizontal and inclusive structure, with an autonomous and self-managed character, whose main objectives are to defend the territory and to prevent the construction…
An article about resistance to plans for a second airport on the South Korean island of Jeju has been published on The Ecologist website – Jeju Islanders resist airport megaproject. A plan for an airport and an accompanying ‘Air City’, i.e. an aerotropolis, was announced without even consulting residents of five villages who would be seriously affected. Hailed by its proponents as the biggest project in the history of Jeju island the airport scheme is linked with other looming megaprojects such as tourism resorts, casinos and surface transportation networks.
Since announcement of the airport, in November 2015, there has been a series of protests and the campaign is being compared to long standing resistance to a Naval Base on the island, an affront to many citizens of the ‘Island of Peace’, which is destroying a large area of coastline and marine wildlife habitat. The mainstream media has misrepresented the community response to the airport plan as divided; in fact the majority of people living in and near to the proposed site are opposed to it. The photos accompanying the Ecologist article were originally published on the blog Pagansweare (one of few sources of information about opposition to the second airport) and used with kind permission. The additional photos below, also from Pagansweare, give more insight into the communities affected by the airport plan and their reaction.
GAAM has published a video showing the ecocide underway for Istanbul’s third airport – an ecocide megaproject. The project site is north of the city on the Black Sea coast. A vast area of forests, lakes, farmland and coastline is being systematically destroyed as the site is prepared for construction. The plan is to build an aerotropolis covering 76 square kilometres. Trees are being felled, lakes filled in and land reclamation damages coastal ecosystems. The aerotropolis plan is linked with other destructive megaprojects including a third bridge across the Bosphorus Strait. Resistance against the megaprojects is led by Kuzey Ormanları Savunması (Northern Forest Defence).
The video was taken on a visit to the site on 7th May 2016, photos can be viewed on Fickr.
Earlier that day Kuzey Ormanları Savunması held a protest outside the forest directorate.
Industry videos of construction of Istanbul’s third airport are available online – giving an indication of the severity and extent of the destruction of ecosystems. The video below, made by Caterpillar shows bulldozing underway.
This video of construction of the airport – on land that used to be forest, lakes and farmland – was filmed from above.
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.
“You are entering a free territory: Here the people decide” Signs set up during the tender weekend (Jan 30-31 2016) where 1000 helped build and mend things on the zad.
We at the Labofii just translated this beautiful little booklet about la zad into english, feel free to download the pdf and spread far and wide. Defending the zad is part voices of struggle, part historical chronology and manifesto, it works as a great update to one of our most popular blogs on this site, Rural Rebels and Useless Airports, published in 2012 during the attempted expulsion of Europe’s largest land occupation at Notre-Dame-des Landes.
Cover of Defending the zad by Mauvaise Troupe
Much has happened the police were kicked out of the zone in 2012 and the zad has now become a new kind of Commune for the 21st Century. On 2000 acres of forest, farm and wetlands…
There are a lot of internet videos promoting aerotropolis projects – here is one that is critical. ‘Parasitic Urbanization: The Transformation of Istanbul’, a talk by Cihan Uzunçarşılı Baysal
The presentation highlights Istanbul’s airport, currently under construction, and other mega infrastructure projects in the region, which are symptomatic of the phenomenon of “planetary urbanisation”. What is happening with this wave of urban development is not new cities, it is not settlements that are contained within boundaries. A new type of urbanisation is extending its influence over the entire surface of the earth, even encroaching into the atmosphere and into the oceans and underground. A key characteristic of this new wave of urbanisation is that it is “parasitic” – it depends on nutrition from its host – sucking in water and other resources from a large hinterland area.
Baysal describes Istanbul’s third airport as an “ecocide” project. Forest is being felled and lakes filled, on a massive scale, and not just for an airport; land is being prepared for an ‘aerotropolis’ extending over a much larger area. An aerotropolis is the opposite of traditional airports, built to serve an established city. An aerotropolis is an airport-centric development, commercial development around an airport that is designed to serve aviation growth.
The talk explains that Istanbul’s third airport is one of the largest of no less than 43 megaprojects underway and planned in the region – most notably a third Bridge across the Bosphorus Strait and a canal alongside it. There is no democratic process whatsoever for deciding to embark on the megaprojects; they are imposed by the government and the firms awarded contracts. Citizens simply do now know what “insane” scheme is going to be announced next.
Campaigners against the Istanbul megaprojects make use of satellite images to reveal the reality of the ecological destruction. These images reflect a global phenomenon. They are examples of the 21st century iconic image of urbanisation, an aerial photograph of excavated and bulldozed area of land, a site being prepared for construction, an image of destruction that is similar to the tar sands in Alberta. This is a marked contrast with the exciting iconic image of 20th century urbanisation: the skyscraper.
Ecologically destructive urban development in Istanbul also exacts a human cost. People are being displaced for the airport and other megaprojects – forced out of their homes by eminent domain, then dumped in new settlements on the periphery, far away from their livelihoods and social life in Istanbul, having to undertake long commutes for work and leisure.
The underlying agenda for the orgy of construction is opening up land for plunder, turning it into a financial and speculative asset, which facilitates the accumulation of capital. The megaprojects are in the process of “privatising and commercialising each and every urban space” and must be halted.
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.