A Letter to SaveAnakkara from Author and Compaigner Rose Bridger

To Save Anakkara

 Greetings from England! I support your campaign to save Anakkara from an airport which would destroy your farmland and community. Your arguments against the airport are compelling. I am in contact with many groups opposing similar projects and have researched, written about and campaigned on this issue for many years. So many plans for airport expansion, and new airports, threaten to destroy farmland, or wildlife habitats. But a growing number of airport expansion projects are meeting with strong opposition, and putting forward a feasible alternative – a shift to surface travel where possible. Non governmental organisations, and local groups, are also challenging the support for aviation expansion in the form of favourable policies and massive subsidies. Take heart and stay strong. 

I live in northern England and the biggest airport in my region is Manchester. There is a long-term campaign against the airport’s expansion over land designated as ‘greenbelt’, and which is a rare urban green oasis hosting rare species such as newts. See the blog SEMA (Stop Expansion at Manchester Airport). http://stopmanchesterairport.blogspot.com/

The biggest airport in the UK is Heathrow, which wants to expand its concrete footprint even further over the southeast of England. It is so enormous, with all its shops and retail outlets, that it is like a city in its own right, a highly noisy and polluting city that blights a wide area. HACAN (Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise) http://www.hacan.org.uk/ led a campaign which achieved historic victory against a third runway, in 2010, with all major political parties stating they would not support the development. But the UK’s Conservative led coalition government betrayed their pre-election commitment, and it turns out that Heathrow’s plans for a third, or even fourth, runway are dormant rather than dead. On the south cost of England, Lydd Airport Action Group is fighting a legal battle against Lydd Airport’s runway expansion plan, which would ruin important wildlife habitat in Romney Marshes. http://www.kentnet.org.uk/laag/index.htm There are groups opposing new runways, new terminal terminals and night flights all over the UK. See the Airport Watch website Campaign Community page list. http://www.airportwatch.org.uk/?page_id=182 Also, check out Plane Stupid. As well as critique of the aviation industry this group has undertaken direct action such as occupying runways and terminals and a rooftop protest at the House of Commons. www.planestupid.com

There are effective protests against airport expansion all over Europe. Most of the projects pose the threat of encroachment on farmland and important wildlife habitats. France, thousands of protestors camping out and hunger strikes, new airport for the city of Nantes, on farmland in Notre Dame des Landes. http://zad.nadir.org/?lang=en  Last autumn, the protest camp was removed by police, but this triggered more supporters from all over Europe to flock to the site to help prevent the development. In Germany, every Monday thousands of protestors gather in the terminal at Frankfurt Airport to protest against the new fourth runway, which was built on land which was previously forests hosting a wealth of biodiversity. http://www.flughafen-bi.de/  Munich Airport is pursuing plans for a third runway, even though the project should have been halted when a citizens’ vote rejected the proposal, winning the vote with far less resources than the pro-new runway lobby.

It is very exciting in Europe now, as a coordinated movement is gaining strength, sharing knowledge and strategies. Cooperation between the different groups and countries also counters one of the key justifications for expansion – that other, rival, airports are expanding unopposed, and if the airport in your area does not expand, its traffic will not keep up and economic activity will drain from the region. See this report – Sea of Protest, community opposition has led to plans for two new airports in Italy, at Siena and Vicerbo, being cancelled. www.hacan.org.uk/resources/reports/a.sea.of.protest.across.europe.pdf

The UECNA (European Union Against Aircraft Nuisances) website has information from groups in many countries, and most recently a report from a conference that brought together 250 campaigners, from communities affected by airports. http://www.uecna.eu/ The non-government organisation Transport and Environment (T&E) addresses aviation and related policy at the European level. http://www.transportenvironment.org/what-we-do/aviation Greenhouse gas emissions, causign climate change, are growing faster from aviation than from any other transport sector, and currently constitute about 5% of world total emissions, but journeys by plane emit higher levels of greenhouse gases than by road, rail or ship, and the benefits of flying are only enjoyed by a relatively wealthy minority. Also, T&E has calculated the value of subsidies to aviation through tax exemptions, most notably on fuel. In Europe it is estimated at about £33 billion per year. Another issue that is being investigated is state aid to airports and airlines, which has continued even as governments impose austerity on citizens, cutting back on benefits to the ill and unemployed and on vital health and education services.

Peotone was selected as the site for a third airport for the city of Chicago more than 30 years ago. The site is mostly prime quality farmland. Even though air traffic to the city has declined, the new airport is still being pursued and people could face eviction from their homes and farmland. Chicago. This is the website for the campaign group Shut This Airport Nightmare Down (STAND). http://www.nothirdairport.org/ There are lively campaign groups all over the US. The Aviation Justice website has a state by state listing. http://www.aviationjustice.org

In Canada, there is a strong campaign against a third airport for the city of Toronto. The site, in Pickering, is prime quality farmland and the campaign for over 40 years with successive rounds of land expropriation and evictions. The Land Over Landings http://www.landoverlandings.com/ group set up a land trust to preserve the land in perpetuity, for farming. In the same city, there is a campaign against expansion of the airport on the waterfront to accommodate larger aircraft. http://www.nojetsto.ca

 I have read about the plans for an airport on land in Aranmula, and the opposition campaign there. I had no idea there were plans for three new airports in Kerala, do tell me about it! Also, I have researched other greenfield airports in India – at various stages of planning, approval and construction – in Mopa (second airport for Goa), Andal, Kushinagar and Sriperumbudur – all on farmland and involving aggressive land acquisition, and all meeting with vigorous opposition from predominantly agricultural communities facing displacement and low rates of compensation. A proposed new airport for Mumbai at Navi would remove mangrove habitat and agricultural land.

 What we need to do now is build on the work of local, national and regional coordination, and build a worldwide movement against unsustainable aviation expansion, and to achieve a shift to surface transport. I will help spread the word about what is happening in Anakkara. My book about aviation, ‘Plane Truth: Aviation’s Real Impact on People and the Environment’ is published by Pluto Press in October. http://bit.ly/16Q6bw8 This is may main website http://rosebridger.com

In solidarity,

Rose Bridger


12th September 2013


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