Tourism: Global civil society witnesses joint statement appeals for harm avoidance

A group of CSOs (civil society organizations) have taken action to help raise awareness of and influence the United Nations tourism agenda. The United Nations has designated 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development (IY2017) to promote tourism’s role in contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Civil society groups have long voiced concerns over tourism growth that, through its aviation dependency, is fossil fuel dependent, and is a key driver of land grabs displacing communities and destroying ecosystems. GAAM joined a number of CSOs in issuing a joint statement criticizing the current global tourism and development model. Entitled ‘Tourism, Urgent Appeal for Harm Avoidance’, the statement was issued on 22nd May, the International Day for Biodiversity which was marked this year on the theme of ‘sustainable tourism’. The statement was issued by: International Support Centre for Sustainable Tourism, Tourism Investigation and Monitoring Team (Tim-Team), Global Anti-Aerotropolis Movement (GAAM), Third World Network (TWN), Consumers Association of Penang, Sahabat Alam Malaysia (Friends of the Earth, Malaysia), and Tourism Advocacy and Action Forum (TAAF).

An article by Friends of the Earth International International Day for biological biodiversity: celebrate by protecting biodiversity, not promoting tourism critiques the UN Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) for using the International Day for Biodiversity to promote tourism and mentioning the need to reduce its negative impacts, but failing to recognize that many so-called ‘sustainable tourism’ projects, fail host communities by denying them revenue generation and self-determination. In the worst cases indigenous peoples are evicted to make way for resorts. FOE calls for tourism policies that protect ecosystems and the rights of local communities, calling for celebration of International Biodiversity Day be challengign the dominant tourism business model.

Aviation is one of the most rapidly growing sources of climate damaging greenhouse gas emissions and a press release from the Global Forest Coalition Aviation Emissions Under Scrutiny On Sustainable Tourism Day raises the issue of proposals to offset these emissions, which were discussed at last week’s climate talks in Bonn, Germany.  Instead of reducing its emissions the aviation industry seeks to offset them with monoculture tree plantations which are a threat to biodiversity and local communities. The plantations destroy natural ecosystems and the livelihoods of communities that depend on them.

Mapping aviation expansion in Indonesia

Following extensive research GAAM has published a digital interactive map: Aviation expansion in Indonesia: tourism, land struggles, economic zones, and aerotropolis projects. The map includes 60 airports – operational, under construction and still at the proposal stage, plus two airport projects which were cancelled. The issue of land rights in particular is highlighted, documenting disputes and resistance against displacement relating to 25 airport projects. Two airports currently under construction in Java, Kertajati and Kulon Progo, are of particular concern because of human rights violations, including police brutality, against people resisting eviction from their homes and productive agricultural land. Aerotropolis development is planned adjoining both of these airports.

Indonesia map graphic
Screengrab of GAAM Aviation Expansion in Indonesia digital map

The digital map represents only a fraction of airport projects in Indonesia, which already has 237 operational airports with a government expansion drive aiming for 62 new airports within 15 years, bringing the total number to 299. Yet it demonstrates the exciting potential of online mapping for organizing, analyzing and presenting information. GAAM hopes to collaborate with other organizations in the development of online maps to develop a more comprehensive picture of aviation expansion and the impacts on affected communities, making the most of this wonderful technology to support our research, awareness raising and campaigning. The map was designed and produced by InTouch GIS using the Storymap app.

A forthcoming report, Aviation expansion in Indonesia: tourism, land struggles, economic zones, and aerotropolis projects, contextualizes the information in GAAM’s online map, examining the central role of aviation expansion in a government drive for tourism growth and the integration of several airport projects with other infrastructure such as road networks and ports, economic zones and aerotropolis developments. The report will be published by GAAM in partnership with the Third World Network (TWN).

Challenging tourism growth: the role of aviation and impacts on biodiversity

Tourism was on the agenda at the 13th Meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP13) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), held in Cancun, Mexico in December 2016. The draft Cancun Declaration recognizes that tourism, a major sector in the global economy, is dependent upon biodiverse ecosystems. A Third World Network (TWN) briefing paper, ‘Tourism at the tipping point: Governance for future generations’, prepared by Alison M. Johnston, Director of the International Support Centre for Sustainable Tourism, Canada, urges a precautionary approach to tourism growth, challenging the institutionalization of the industry as a ‘pre-approved enterprise’ which facilitates its expansion into remote areas, often damaging rather than conserving ecosystems and biodiversity. The paper highlights the role of aviation, the tourism industry’s dependence upon the petroleum industry, the impacts on indigenous peoples and considerations for future generations.

The paper was presented and discussed at a COP side-event entitled ‘Tourism and Biodiversity: Benefits and Hazards’ that was co-organized by the TWN, the Global Forest Coalition, the International Support Centre for Sustainable Tourism (ISCST) and the Tourism Investigation & Monitoring Team (tim-team). This input to the UN biodiversity conference, and other critical perspective on tourism, are particularly important in view of the United Nations designation of 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, aiming to support ‘a change in policies, business practices and consumer behavior towards a more sustainable tourism sector’.

 

Tinkering with ‘sustainable or eco-tourism’ hides the real face of tourism

The United Nations has proclaimed 2017 the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, welcoming projected growth in tourism, already one of the world’s biggest industries, as bringing benefits of economic development and eradicating poverty. Yet tourism has multi-dimensional, serious, impacts on people and the environment. Most importantly, it is a major and growing source of climate damaging greenhouse gas emissions, primarily due to energy intensive transportation such as air travel. Even when proclaimed as ‘green tourism or ‘eco-tourism’, tourism often fails to meet the needs of host communities, resulting in widening inequalities, cultural erosion and damage to ecosystems. These social, economic and environmental downsides are examined in an article: ‘Tinkering with ‘sustainable or eco-tourism’ hides the real face of tourism‘.

 

Written by Anita Pleumarom (Tourism Investigation & Monitoring Team) and Chee Yoke Ling (Third World Network), the article was published to coincide with the 2016 High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) that took place in New York from 11th to 20th July. The HLPF on Sustainable Development is the United Nations’ central platform for the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit on 25th Spetember 2015. The article is based on a chapter entitled Corporate capture subverts production and consumption transformation by Chee Yoke Ling, published in Spotlight on Sustainable Development 2016: Report by the Reflection Group on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, (11 July 2016, pp.94-100). The report puts a spotlight on fulfillment of the SDGs, looking at obstacles to achievement of the objectives and evaluating the policy approaches.

Jeju Islanders resist airport megaproject – Ecologist article

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.

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Opposition to airport project in Kaş

A proposal for an airport near the town of Kaş has raised serious concerns over threats to the region’s heritage, agriculture and natural environment. Kaş is a popular tourism destination on the mountainous southernmost shore of Turkey, known as the ‘Turquoise Coast’ and one of least developed areas of the Mediterranean. The rugged coastline has beautiful bays, coves and beaches. Outdoor activities include kayaking, paragliding, mountain-biking and trekkers flock to the area as it is situated along the 509 kilometre Lycian Way. The proposed airport site is a few kilometres inland from Kaş in the Çomucak-Pınarbaşı-Çukurbağ-Ağullu area. It is thought that the proposed land area to be allocated for the airport is about 20 square kilometres. This is almost twice the 11.7 square kilometre area of Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, the busiest airport in Turkey, handling over 61 million passengers in 2015.

Kas

If the airport project goes ahead there will be negative impacts on historical and archeological sites, including Phellos, the largest ancient city in the area, on the outskirts of Kaş. Forested areas would be destroyed and the area is rich in native plants such as the endangered Lycian orchid. Fertile land that is cultivated, with agricultural plots, livestock grazing and beehives, would be lost, along with farming livelihoods. Parts of Pınarbaşı village are in the expropriation area, so people may face displacement. There are also concerns that residents of the Ağullu, Belenli, Çukurbağ, and Yeniköy neighbourhoods would be forced to relocate. Noise pollution from aircraft flying overhead would ruin the tranquillity of the villages. The Greek island of Kastellorizo is close to the coast so building the airport would require permission from Greece.

Kaş has a population of just 8,000 people and mass tourism would damage unique natural, cultural and historical assets. Major and international firms would take trade away from local tourism-based businesses. Campaigners warned that an airport in Kaş would lead to the area meeting the same fate as the coastal resort towns of Marmaris and Side, also on the Mediterranean coast, and Kuşadası on the western Aegean coast, their distinctiveness deteriorating due to large-scale tourism developments.

A consortium of eight companies, DETUYAB, has applied to the Ministry of Transport and Communications to build the airport on the BOT (build-operate-transfer) model. DETUYAB is already heavily involved with mass tourism projects in the area. The consortium is developing a 115 hectare tourism zone in the coastal town of Demre, about 47 kilometres east of Kaş, including restaurants, villas, hotels with a total of 7,500 beds and a 700 berth marina. Demre has sandy beaches and, like Kaş, is surrounded by historic sites, cultivated land and important wildlife habitats.

Opposition to the airport plan is gathering momentum. A group of local organisations – including Kaş Tourism Association, Kaş Kalkan Patara Hoteliers Association, Kaş Underwater Association and Kaş Environment Platform – has submitted a seven-page report to local state bodies opposing construction of the airport, detailing the damage that would be caused to nature, communities and the local economy. An online petition, We don’t want an airport in Kaş, had already attracted nearly 19,000 signatures.

Indigenous Islanders are Employing Shamanic Symbolism to Resist Jeju Island’s Proposed 2nd Airport.

Residents of Jeju Island (South Korea) are resisting a proposed airport that would displace people from five villages. The project has been imposed on local communities without consultation, and with little consideration on how the planned influx of millions of tourists would impact on rural people. The majority of local people oppose the airport, and it is being met with a series of protests.

pagansweare

IMG_3012 Onpyoung Village resident in costume, speaking as the Youngdeung Goddess at a demonstration last week. The goddess is worshipped in a rite performed by shamans each lunar February.

Indigenous residents of Jeju Island’s southeastern region are employing traditional shamanic culture to protest the airport that is slated to displace the populations of five villages. So far, the mainstream media outside of Jeju has done little to document resistance to the project. The new airport is opposed by the majority of residents in the villages affected. Hundreds of locals from Onpyoung  and Sinsan villages, elderly and young alike, including middle school students, have enacted a series of demonstrations against the development.

IMG_2997 Residents dressed as Jeju’s three founding father figures, Go, Yang and Boo, the mythical original residents of Jeju Island.

IMG_2973 “You’re trashing our hometown and we’ll have nowhere to go.”

IMG_3009 Farmers and women divers (haenyo) from the village gather in front…

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