New airport plans forge ahead

By TPN/Lusa, in News · 08-11-2019 01:00:00 · 1 Comments
New airport plans forge ahead

A 50 year blockade on the construction of the new Montijo airport has come to an end following a decision from the APA (Portuguese Environment Agency).

Portugal’s minister of infrastructure has welcomed the decision of the APA to make the new Montijo airport viable.
“We welcome this decision because it puts an end to a five-decade blockade on the construction of the new Lisbon airport,” Pedro Nuno Santos told reporters.


He added, that there are no environmentally neutral airports and mitigating measures would be necessary, as the APA then proposed, which could amount to €48 million.


Santos did not speak about the controversies surrounding the construction of the airport, for example, the surprise expressed by ANA - Aeroportos de Portugal, which will be responsible for the construction of the new airport, with the mitigation measures or even the possibility of complaints in Brussels or precautionary measures.


As a minister and citizen, Pedro Nuno Santos stated that he wants the mitigating measures to be adopted, although he also wants the next steps to be possible so that finally, the country, after 50 years of studying locations, can have the airport capacity of the Lisbon region.


The APA issued the proposed Environmental Impact Statement (DIA) for the Montijo airport and respective accessibility, with the decision being ‘conditional favourable’, enabling the project.


The mayor of Montijo, Nuno Canta, said that he is ‘optimistic’ with the favourable environmental impact assessment from the APA on the construction of the future airport at the Montijo Air Base.


“I am optimistic and positive about this environmental impact assessment, which is one of the most participated ever and in which most of the issues and the so-called environmental impacts of the airport were discussed,” said Nuno Canta.


“We were among the first to say that any airport infrastructure in Montijo would necessarily have to have an environmental framework, would have to respond to the environmental values present in the territory and it seems to me that this study, from what I know, responds to the major problems that an airport normally creates,” he added.


The decision is favourable but includes a package of measures to minimise an environmental compensation that amount to about €48 million, particularly for issues related to noise, mobility and birdlife.


According to the mayor, the solutions found are adequate - to create new habitats, recover the abandoned salt pans that exist in Montijo and elsewhere in this region, he said.


Confronted with the concerns expressed by some experts and environmental protection associations, who not only warn of the environmental damage caused by the new airport, but also say it is a solution that may have a very short lifespan, of only 20/30 years, Nuno Canta said that the most important thing now is to ensure the implementation of precautionary measures of the Environmental Impact Statement.


He said that some experts who oppose the decision are neglecting one fact - that the Montijo Air Base airport covers about 1,000 hectares, three times larger than Lisbon airport.


“It is a top airbase, but the country now needs to use it as a civil airport so the Air Base will continue to operate and there is room for a civil airport,” added Nuno Canta.


The mayor of Montijo also recalled that the future Montijo airport, if necessary, has the capacity for two runways to take off and land simultaneously.


While the project has seen support from the authorities and government, it has been met with opposition from the Portuguese Ecologist Party “The Greens” (PEV), who have expressed “deep concern” about the decision to make the new airport of Montijo viable and accused the socialist government of allying itself with the multinational Vinci.

PEV leaders said that “the people in Moita and Barreiro will be confined to the walls of their homes without being able to open doors or windows so as not to be affected by noise” and, “at the level of mobility”, say that “the proposal to buy two ferries is to ‘throw sand’ in people’s eyes”, because “the needs of the Metropolitan Area [of Lisbon] are not compatible with the purchase of just two vessels”.


“For ‘The Greens’, the Socialist government, has once again decided to ally itself with a multinational instead of defending the Portuguese and their natural heritage.The public interest would require that the environmental and safety criteria of people and the territory come first,” the text added.


Among the main environmental concerns are bird life, noise and mobility.


According to the APA, this declaration comes “following the equally favourable opinion, issued by the Evaluation Committee composed of dozens of experts and public administration bodies.


The project aims to ensure the construction of a civil airport in Montijo Air Base as a secondary airport for Lisbon, aiming at the distribution of air traffic destined for the Lisbon region and the accessibility of road connecting the A12 to the new airport.


On 8 January, ANA - Aeroportos de Portugal and the state signed the agreement for the expansion of Lisbon airport capacity, with an investment of €1.15 billion until 2028 to increase the current Lisbon airport and transform Montijo air base into a new airport.



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Controversy over the choice of Montijo airbase for a second Lisbon passenger terminal has moved to a new level. ANA airports authority – desperate to get the environmental ‘okay’ to get started – has come up with a plan to save birds from colliding with planes by buying or renting alternative nesting grounds “far from flightpaths”.

The proposal to provide 260 species of migratory birds a choice of eight nearby saltmarshes has been described as “perfectly normal” by environment minister João Pedro Matos Fernandes – the man pilloried for declaring that asbestos was “not a dangerous material”, and who continues to insist that lithium mining is “essential for the country to meet decarbonisation targets”.

But it has been met with amazement by members of the public who have left comments online to the effect of “once the alternative saltmarshes are purchased or rented, the government will send emails to all the birds registered with SEF (the border control agency) and tell them they have to move house … pathetic!”

Experts too have been left shaking their heads.

Said Domingos Leitão, executive director of SPEA (the Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds), with habitual diplomacy, “this looks like being a false compensatory measure” even from a legal perspective.

Leitão explained that the various saltmarshes ‘identified’ to take fleeing avians are already protected. In other words, they can’t be used as compensatory measures, even if a solution was found on how to inform birds that they need to ‘vamoose’ as a collision with passenger jets arriving at the rate of 38 per hour might just ruffle feathers (of all concerned).

SPEA’s viewpoint is that “something new is needed to compensate for a damage” – but what it could be is somehow still left hanging.

For critics who have said all along that Montijo is the worst possible place for a new terminal to take the pressure of Lisbon’s heaving Humberto Delgado complex, this is just another example of institutional lunacy.

Civil engineers have already trashed the plan on the basis that it is a short-term sticking plaster carrying enormous environmental costs for local communities.

As for the birds, ANA airports authority has admitted that roughly 250 hectares that today represent an official sanctuary will be “significantly affected”.

Meantime, the second environmental impact study (the first having been rejected on the basis that it was “confused, generic and full of deficiencies”) is still under public discussion.

That in itself is ‘curious’ – bearing in mind it should have been ready in March.

All in all, the Montijo controversy looks set to stagger on until the elections are safely out of the way, at which point someone in power might agree that the military airbase constructed in the 50s and since surrounded by residential development is not the best place for a 21st century passenger terminal playing its part in bringing 50 million tourists to Portugal every year.

Online commentary certainly seems to hope so.

Said one reader, reacting to the saltmarsh buy-up plan: “This airport is an accident waiting to happen. The question is not if, but when there is a serious collision with birds …”

Study highlights health risks posed by jet planes

Released (almost quietly) during this controversy has been a report that concludes that people who “work, live or spend any form of prolonged period of time” near Lisbon’s Humberto Delgado airport “are exposed to high concentrations of ultrafine particles of such magnitude that constitutes a considerable risk to their health”.

Problems that could be precipitated by particles “so fine that they are 700 times less dense than a strand of hair” range from “neurological disorders to fetal development and cognitive problems in children”.

Explains lead investigator Margarida Lopes, who developed the study within the Sciences Technology and Environmental Engineering Faculty of the New University of Lisbon, the findings are ‘worrying’ – particularly as the short-term future suggests jet planes will now be arriving at two high-density residential destinations within close proximity to each other – Montijo being a relative stone’s throw ‘as the crow flies’ (excuse the pun) from Lisbon.

These ‘nanoparticles’ don’t stay put either. They float about within a radius of at least one km, and they’re found on airplane descent paths in areas like Amoreiras.

Lopes stressed that “until a few years ago, no one even suspected that particles so minuscule could have such a large impact on health”. Their measurement – and recognition of their prejudicial effects on public health – is “recent” and there is a “growing preoccupation, due to their direct absorption by the body, through the respiratory system”.

Nanoscience is very new, concludes TSF radio, and while it’s now clear that these particles affect people’s health, there is still no law setting limits on levels of exposure.

The ominous feeling behind Lopes’ study is that so little about it has been discussed in the media.

TSF carried an oblique comment from environmental NGO Quercus about the “need to transition to less polluting fuels”, but the bottom-line is that until this happens, and if Montijo does become a new passenger hub, hundreds of thousands of people will be at risk.

by Christopher Dickson from UK on 10-11-2019 05:48:00
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