Time’s almost up for new impact study on Montijo airport expansion

It has been promised for the second week in April, and we’re practically there.

The environmental impact study mark II for the use of Montijo airbase as a secondary airport serving Lisbon will seek to allay all the fears of anti-campaigners and herald a bright new dawn in Portugal’s touristic ambitions.

Thus this week was one of the last opportunities for groups and all those concerned to have their say in parliament.

Objections to Montijo are already well known, though constantly belittled by the powers-that-be.

Environment minister João Pedro Matos Fernandes – fresh from telling a parliamentary committee that asbestos was not a dangerous material – has stressed that Montijo carries the “least negative environmental impacts” of all available options.

He told MPs this week that he is up to speed with all the issues, the most pressing of which are noise – “which will be more”, he agreed – and impacts for birdlife on what is a natural reserve and marshland.

Readers may recall that the first environmental impact study was deemed ‘confused generic and full of deficiencies’.

But Matos Fernandes stressed this week that it wasn’t ‘thrown-out’. The problem was that it “didn’t have enough density to be considered compliant”, he said.

ANA airports authority is thus seeking to gather this ‘density’. But opposition is still virulent.

“Plataforma Cívica Aeroporto BA6 — Montijo NÃO!” is the group that was campaigning when the airport plan was officially launched earlier this year.

At the time prime minister Costa said a tad confusingly that there was “no Plan B” – but that the government would not move ahead unless the new environmental impact study was positive.

Adding to the confusion was the fact that different factions are promoting different alternatives.

The civic platform, for instance, wants Alcochete airbase for the new runways, whereas new political party Aliança, led by former PSD prime minister Pedro Santana Lopes, wants Alverca.

Zero, the environmental association, wants a strategic environmental study, to ensure transparency which it claims has been sorely lacking in the whole process.

The only thing clear as we near the new impact study deadline is that time is running out and the reason for expanding at all – Lisbon airport’s absolute incapacity to take any further ‘business’ – is about to be stretched to its limit once again as the Easter rush approaches.

For background to this story, click here.

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