The prospect of an international airport in the Sacred Valley of the Incas in Peru has haunted the populations of Chinchero and Urumbamba for 40 years. With construction now underway, local initiatives and civil society organisations fear the destructive consequences...
This map brings together case studies documenting a diversity of injustice related to airport projects across the world. It was developed in collaboration between the Environmental Justice Atlas and Stay Grounded.
For more information, or in case you want to contribute with information on a local airport struggle, please contact: mapping[at]stay-grounded[dot]org
Mapping Airport-related Injustice and Resistance
The map brings together case studies documenting a diversity of injustice related to airport projects across the world. Affected communities contend with a multitude of injustices: forced eviction, land dispossession, destruction of ecosystems, construction work impacts and health damage from pollution. Injustices arise from new airports and expansion of existing airports. Many passenger-oriented airport projects aim to increase tourism, such as the proposed Mondulkiri Airport in Cambodia and Fainu Airport in the Maldives, along with Chinchero Airport already under construction and aiming to increase the number of visitors to Machu Picchu in Peru.
The map also includes cargo airports, four of which are for delivery of equipment for fossil fuel projects: Komo Airport to serve Papua New Guinea’s PNG LNG project, Hoima Airport to support oil development on the shore of Lake Albert in Uganda and Suai Airport serving oil platforms off the coast of Timor-Leste. Several of the cases are aerotropolis (airport city) projects: airports surrounded by aviation-dependent commercial and industrial development. Examples include Nijgadh Airport (Nepal), Kertajati Airport and New Yogyakarta International Airport (NYIA) (Indonesia), Bhogapuram Airport and Aerocity, Purandar Airport, Shivdaspura Aero City and Andal Aerotropolis (India), a second airport on Jeju Island (South Korea), New Phnom Penh Airport (Cambodia), Sanya Hongtangwan Airport (China), Vernamfield Aerotropolis (Jamaica), Central Transport Hub (Poland), Northwest Florida Beaches Airport (USA) and Hamilton Airport (Canada).
The key issue in the majority of the cases is land acquisition. Allocation of large sites, often farmland and fishing grounds, for airport projects, means entire communities, in some instances thousands of people residing in multiple villages, face loss of their homes and livelihoods. Examples include Purandar Airport and Navi Mumbai Airport in India and Ogun Cargo Airport in Nigeria. Many communities resisting displacement have suffered state repression: forced evictions, harassment, intimidation, arrests, imprisonment and violence. There are several incidences of conflicts between affected communities and state forces resulting in deaths and injuries, including at a proposed major new airport on the Arial Beel wetlands (Bangladesh), Mieu Mon military airport (Vietnam) and Lombok Airport (Indonesia). Local organisations opposing construction of an airport in Creel (Mexico) have denounced the death of an indigenous leader, just days before a planned demonstration at the site, as a state crime. Suicides by people facing displacement for airport projects are documented in the cases of Bhogapuram and Salem airports in India.
The map showcases a number of inspirational victories against airport projects. New airports threatening destruction of farmland in Nantes (France) and Aranmula Greenfield Airport (India) have been halted, along with a major new airport that would have paved over a large swath of the Arial Beel wetlands in Bangladesh. An airport on Koh Phangan Island (Thailand) was stopped after forest was illegally cleared for the project. New Mexico City Airport was halted after construction works destroyed a large swathe of wetlands. But in many cases opposition to an airport development results in the project being stalled rather than stopped, such as third runways at Heathrow Airport and Vienna Airport. The prospect, or actuality, of airport schemes being re-instigated means affected communities endure ongoing uncertainty and distress.
Impacted communities have also secured partial victories, such as increased compensation for land acquisition in the cases of Sentani Airport (Indonesia) and Bhogapuram Airport and Aerocity (India), with the latter being an example of activism successfully reducing the land area allocated to the project. Farmers whose land was bulldozed without warning for a cargo airport in Ekiti (Nigeria) secured a court ruling that forcible takeover of their land was illegal and ordering payment for damages.
Serious environmental damage
Site clearance for many airport projects obliterates wildlife habitats and biodiversity. One of the most serious cases of deforestation in Sri Lanka occurred in the area where Mattala Airport was subsequently constructed. Two proposed airport projects threaten large-scale deforestation, Mopa Airport (India) and Nepal’s Nijgadh Airport which raises the prospect of 2.4 million trees being felled. Land reclamation for coastal airports also destroys ecosystems. Planned expansion of Noonu Maafaru Airport (Maldives) was halted as land reclamation would lead to loss of a large area of lagoon. This decision was overturned placing sea turtles and other marine species at risk. Mangroves in Manila Bay have already been cut for Bulacan Aerotropolis and coral reefs and seagrass beds could be at risk for a proposed second airport on Tioman Island (Malaysia). Land reclamation for Sanya Hongtangwan Airport was halted for two years after complaints over impacts on the habitat of protected Chinese white dolphins. The site for a planned second airport in Lisbon (Portugal) is in the natural reserve of the Tagus estuary, a wetland ecosystem that is a crucial feeing ground for dozens of bird species. In Nepal, local conservation groups opposed extraction of sand and gravel from local riverbeds for construction of Gautam Buddha Airport.
Airport construction can have serious negative environmental and health impacts on neighbouring communities. Residents living in the midst of earthworks for Navi Mumbai Airport have been injured by flying rocks from blasting works and suffer high levels of dust pollution. Komo Airport in Papua New Guinea and Pakyong Airport in India are notable instances of the use of enormous volumes of aggregates for construction causing unstable ground and landslips. Residents living near Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport (US) filed a class action lawsuit over excessive dust, noise and shock waves from blasting works during construction of a cargo hub. Residents impacted by construction of Isiolo Airport (Kenya) suffered violations of their human rights to housing, employment, education and provision of water.
Once airports are operational neighbouring communities are exposed to pollutants emitted by aircraft and high noise levels. In California, USA these issues galvanized communities who would be affected by a proposed cargo facility at San Bernardino Airport to form a broad-based coalition. Aviation fuel leaks can contaminate water supplies. Major jet fuel leaks from facilities supplying two US air bases, Kirtland AFB and Red Hill Bulk Storage Facility in Hawaii, are documented and a new facility supplying aviation fuel to Vancouver Airport brings the risk of polluting the Fraser River.
Mapping to strengthen connectivity
The Map of Airport-related Injustice and Resistance serves as a tool to help strengthen connectivity between affected communities and their supporters, building international solidarity to strengthen the growing global movement against multiple injustices relating to airport projects. A webinar held on 7th May 2020 introduces the map of airport conflicts and analysis of the information that has been compiled. The map is a project co-ordinated by the Stay Grounded network. We are grateful for the information shared by organisations and activists. The research team is co-ordinated by Rose Bridger (Stay Grounded/Global Anti-Aerotropolis Movement – GAAM) and Sara Mingorria (Institute of Environmental Science and Technology at Autonomous University of Barcelona ICTA-UAB).
The team encourages people to join us and participate in adding and updating cases. Get in contact at: