Kulon Progo farmers against airport and aerotropolis

This new report ‘Solidarity Calls for Kulon Progo Farmers against Airport and Airport City’ about farmers’ resistance against eviction for New Yogyakarta International Airport (NYIA) gives many insights into one of Indonesia’s key land rights struggles. An ‘airport city’ or aerotropolis is planned around the new airport, comprising shopping malls, hotels and industrial zones, increasing the land area to 2,000 hectares. The site, in Kulon Progo on the south coast of Java, comprises six villages with 11,501 residents and resistance against eviction for the airport dates back to 2011.

Farmers have worked hard for many generations to increase the fertility of the land, establishing successful farms and  thriving communities. If they are evicted from their farmland many thousands of agricultural labourers will also lose their livelihoods. The megaproject was approved without the requisite Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and there are serious concerns over destruction of sand dunes which act as a bulwark protecting from coastal erosion and tsunamis and prevention salinization of groundwater.

The airport plan has divided the community. Many citizens have refused to sell their land for the airport, whilst some are willing to sell their land for compensation. It is thought that supporters of the airport have worked to widen the social, economic and political rifts, which serves to facilitate the project. Resistance to land acquisition has met with state intimidation, repression and criminalization with four farmers being imprisoned. Residents have formed a new organization opposing the airport, Paguyuban Warga Penolak Penggusuran Kulon Progo (PWPP-KP), which is allied with an organization of neighbouring farmers resisting sand mining, and is supported by many citizens and environmental activist groups.

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Resisting Kulon Progo Airport – inspirational artwork

Artwork galvanizes local campaigns, and bridges language barriers, forming a powerful tool for building international communication and solidarity. The resistance campaign against Kulon Progo Airport in Indonesia, also called New Yogyakarta International Airport (NYIA) offers some striking examples. Residents of six coastal villages have resisted eviction from their homes and farmland for the airport since 2011. The text on the poster on the right of the top row translates as ‘We strongly condemn destroyers of the healthy environment. We prosper without an airport and mining’, linking the campaign with the grassroots struggle against iron mining. Watermelons are depicted destroying a plane, because this is one of the key crops grown on the site earmarked for the airport, along with squash, eggplant (aubergine), peppers, rice and maize. The anti-eviction struggle intensified on 28th August. Without warning, construction equipment escorted by hundreds of police entered the site, displacing residents and destroying farmland. Citizens attempted to block the entry of the equipment, but were outnumbered by police.

An ‘airport city’  or ‘aerotropolis’ is planned around Kulon Progo Airport, threatening more evictions and the loss of more farmland. The poster on the bottom right brings together the Kulon Progo airport and aerotropolis resistance with the struggle against a similar megaproject, Kertajati Airport, that is already under construction 300 kilometers away near the northern coast of West Java. Kertajati Airport, also referred to as BIJB (Bandara Intenasional Jawa Barat), is the first phase of a major aerotropolis scheme on a 50 square kilometre site which is predominantly fertile agricultural land. Residents of ten villages have been evicted from their homes and productive farmland for Kertajati Airport and in 2016 residents of an eleventh village, Sukamulya, resisted a series attempts to measure their land for the project. Citizens’ resistance against eviction for Kulon Progo and Kertajati airports is supported by Jogja Darurat Agraria. T-shirts with anti-Kulon Progo Airport / airport city artwork have also been produced