Categorized | Editorial, Local

“The Longer We Lack an Airport, It is Hard to Explain Why We Stay”

EDITORIAL – August 16, 2013

We go way back and present a re-run of this Editorial, untouched. There are those who were somewhere between six and ten years old. They may be best ones to read this and express an opinion. For the rest, who would have lived the woes and the failures since, maybe it is time they seriously think of honestly face some realities.

The date is deliberately left out, let’s see how many will figure out when it was written.

It is getting to be somewhat difficult and even embarrassing to answer the question asked of those of us living here in Montserrat, “Why  don’t you all just give up this island and take the options of going away and carrying on with your lives?”

Just over five years ago, Sir Nicholas Bonsor of the British Conservative Party, then the government in Britain, accepted and committed that the British will provide the necessary assistance for life to continue in Montserrat and to develop the north of the island. To this day we haven’t quite grasped what that would have entailed. Sir Nicholas warned at the time that we lacked the personnel and technical skill to carry out what would be required. But who did we expect to know what would be required and what it was that we needed and wanted?

We have just discovered that right up to now, with a Labour government going into a second term since the Conservatives lost power, the confidence to truly develop the north of Montserrat is still very lacking. Indeed we are aware that their idea of the best option for Montserrat is still total evacuation. Yes, there is the denial, but the reverse is obvious when the aid is directed to anything but of a developmental nature, as DFID’s Mr. Kavanagh revealed to us last week.

We contribute to the idea ourselves by not coming up with united positions about what we need to bring life back to where it can be conducive for our people to return home and to make things attractive to investors or simply businesses. In June 1997, 15 months after that commitment by Britain, our Chief Minister of the day revealed why so little had been done in terms of serious planning for development of the north. He admitted that the government had always been looking forward to returning to the south (Plymouth). But even though the volcano proved the scientists right, we seem not yet to have focused our attention in the right direction. We have allowed others to take control of our destiny in a slow but chillingly realistic way. All we have now is our so-called ‘resilience’ and it is slowly fading.

If this view seems boring and monotonous, and that we are simply belaboring the point, then it is time for reality to set in and for action to be taken one way or the other.

This idea of “patting the lion when one hand is in its mouth” will not work. The lion will simply take the other hand in. Moreover, if it does let the hand go, what will you do? Run away? Turn around and fight? Do we even know what we will do or even want to do?

Everyone concerned believes and agrees that the island has no future whatsoever, economic or otherwise, without a reasonable means of transport of people and goods in and out of Montserrat. At least there are claims of sort of some study going on for the seaport. But in the meantime, millions of dollars are being spent figuring out how NOT to put an airport/airstrip at Thatch Valley, the accepted permanent solution, and how to implement a temporary solution at Gerald’s.

In the next couple weeks we hope to show, with some help from the various reports, how the matter is being twisted up and down, in and out.

For now, so many limitations exist, as the consultants of the Project Identification and Preliminary Design of Airport Options in Montserrat have said in their terms of reference, which follow:

“The need to guarantee safe operations, need for limited investment, need for a quick implementation of the works, need to limit social and environmental impact related to the works, need to limit modifications to the existing Development Plans of the area under examination,” and more.

Right down to a home for the birds that frequent the existing pond at the Gerald’s site. The problem, what to do with those birds that can become hazardous when an airstrip is there and there is no more pond.

Sadly, despite all of the reports to date in respect of all the options, an aeronautical wind study is required before a single shovel of soil is turned. We have been hearing this for three years now and yet nothing has been done.

Mr. Michiel Vreedenburgh, International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAIO) Regional Officer Aerodromes and Ground Aids, said in a most recent report following his four-day visit to Montserrat last month that he hopes that the recommendations in his report will be taken into consideration in the implementation of the proposed development of a new aerodrome in North Montserrat.

These include :

1.“undertake an aeronautical wind and climatological study to confirm the suitability of the Gerald’s Bottom location for an aerodrome to accommodate safe operations by the aircraft it is intended to serve.” (see front page story for more recommendations).

Mr. Vreedenburgh could not understand “why the Blake’s Estate site was not recommended, given its apparent best compromise,” given the evaluation factors he came up with. He said further, “the Blake’s Estate site has a low additional cost and social impact, similar to the Thatch Valley site, in comparison to the high additional cost and social impact at the Gerald’s Bottom site.

One thing stands out in all the technical information provided: the statistics and information in each case are based on a “zero wind factor,” expected to be different for every option. This is but a mere hint of the pros and cons in respect of airport options in Montserrat, which when studied come down to one factor, unwillingness to spend the necessary funds required for the future of Montserrat.

The truth is that an airport for Montserrat is very important and involving. It is time for us to become aggressive and honest enough to bite the bullet, make a move and do the right thing to guarantee a future for Montserrat – time is running out. The consultants were asked to fit the Gerald’s airstrip into a time frame for being ready by the end of 2002 rather than in 2004.

 

Leave a Reply

Newsletter

Archives

EDITORIAL – August 16, 2013

We go way back and present a re-run of this Editorial, untouched. There are those who were somewhere between six and ten years old. They may be best ones to read this and express an opinion. For the rest, who would have lived the woes and the failures since, maybe it is time they seriously think of honestly face some realities.

The date is deliberately left out, let’s see how many will figure out when it was written.

Insert Ads Here

It is getting to be somewhat difficult and even embarrassing to answer the question asked of those of us living here in Montserrat, “Why  don’t you all just give up this island and take the options of going away and carrying on with your lives?”

Just over five years ago, Sir Nicholas Bonsor of the British Conservative Party, then the government in Britain, accepted and committed that the British will provide the necessary assistance for life to continue in Montserrat and to develop the north of the island. To this day we haven’t quite grasped what that would have entailed. Sir Nicholas warned at the time that we lacked the personnel and technical skill to carry out what would be required. But who did we expect to know what would be required and what it was that we needed and wanted?

We have just discovered that right up to now, with a Labour government going into a second term since the Conservatives lost power, the confidence to truly develop the north of Montserrat is still very lacking. Indeed we are aware that their idea of the best option for Montserrat is still total evacuation. Yes, there is the denial, but the reverse is obvious when the aid is directed to anything but of a developmental nature, as DFID’s Mr. Kavanagh revealed to us last week.

We contribute to the idea ourselves by not coming up with united positions about what we need to bring life back to where it can be conducive for our people to return home and to make things attractive to investors or simply businesses. In June 1997, 15 months after that commitment by Britain, our Chief Minister of the day revealed why so little had been done in terms of serious planning for development of the north. He admitted that the government had always been looking forward to returning to the south (Plymouth). But even though the volcano proved the scientists right, we seem not yet to have focused our attention in the right direction. We have allowed others to take control of our destiny in a slow but chillingly realistic way. All we have now is our so-called ‘resilience’ and it is slowly fading.

If this view seems boring and monotonous, and that we are simply belaboring the point, then it is time for reality to set in and for action to be taken one way or the other.

This idea of “patting the lion when one hand is in its mouth” will not work. The lion will simply take the other hand in. Moreover, if it does let the hand go, what will you do? Run away? Turn around and fight? Do we even know what we will do or even want to do?

Everyone concerned believes and agrees that the island has no future whatsoever, economic or otherwise, without a reasonable means of transport of people and goods in and out of Montserrat. At least there are claims of sort of some study going on for the seaport. But in the meantime, millions of dollars are being spent figuring out how NOT to put an airport/airstrip at Thatch Valley, the accepted permanent solution, and how to implement a temporary solution at Gerald’s.

In the next couple weeks we hope to show, with some help from the various reports, how the matter is being twisted up and down, in and out.

For now, so many limitations exist, as the consultants of the Project Identification and Preliminary Design of Airport Options in Montserrat have said in their terms of reference, which follow:

“The need to guarantee safe operations, need for limited investment, need for a quick implementation of the works, need to limit social and environmental impact related to the works, need to limit modifications to the existing Development Plans of the area under examination,” and more.

Right down to a home for the birds that frequent the existing pond at the Gerald’s site. The problem, what to do with those birds that can become hazardous when an airstrip is there and there is no more pond.

Sadly, despite all of the reports to date in respect of all the options, an aeronautical wind study is required before a single shovel of soil is turned. We have been hearing this for three years now and yet nothing has been done.

Mr. Michiel Vreedenburgh, International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAIO) Regional Officer Aerodromes and Ground Aids, said in a most recent report following his four-day visit to Montserrat last month that he hopes that the recommendations in his report will be taken into consideration in the implementation of the proposed development of a new aerodrome in North Montserrat.

These include :

1.“undertake an aeronautical wind and climatological study to confirm the suitability of the Gerald’s Bottom location for an aerodrome to accommodate safe operations by the aircraft it is intended to serve.” (see front page story for more recommendations).

Mr. Vreedenburgh could not understand “why the Blake’s Estate site was not recommended, given its apparent best compromise,” given the evaluation factors he came up with. He said further, “the Blake’s Estate site has a low additional cost and social impact, similar to the Thatch Valley site, in comparison to the high additional cost and social impact at the Gerald’s Bottom site.

One thing stands out in all the technical information provided: the statistics and information in each case are based on a “zero wind factor,” expected to be different for every option. This is but a mere hint of the pros and cons in respect of airport options in Montserrat, which when studied come down to one factor, unwillingness to spend the necessary funds required for the future of Montserrat.

The truth is that an airport for Montserrat is very important and involving. It is time for us to become aggressive and honest enough to bite the bullet, make a move and do the right thing to guarantee a future for Montserrat – time is running out. The consultants were asked to fit the Gerald’s airstrip into a time frame for being ready by the end of 2002 rather than in 2004.