Last update:
2020-04-02

Vernamfield Aerotropolis, Jamaica

Communities fear forcible land expropriation for development of Vernamfield Aerotropolis, a major air cargo project on 1,619 hectares of land that is part of a broader logistics hub initiative and linked with expansion of aluminium manufacturing


Description:

During a 15th January 2020 meeting of the parish of Clarendon residents of communities living around Vernamfield Aerodrome voiced fears that the Government would forcibly expropriate their land for a multi-modal project, Vernamfield Aerotropolis Development, under the auspices of the Compulsory Land Acquisition Act. Unanimously, residents had refused offers made for their land, saying that the Government had made “ridiculously low property offers”, far below the market value, including for farms that people had developed for decades. They said that if the low offers were not immediately withdrawn the plans would not take off. A Member of Parliament representing Clarendon South, Noel Arscott, said impending land acquisition had “caused persons to lawyer-up”, especially people owning larger dairy lots. In a December 2019 letter the Government had designated the Airports Authority of Jamaica (AAJ) as the lead agency responsible for the Aerotropolis, granting approval for negotiations with private landowners for acquisition of land parcels required for the project. The letter stated a commitment to public meetings to discuss the plans with the community, but land offer letters arrived before any such discussions took place. Land offer letters, issued by the National Land Agency (NLA), had given residents the impression that the “stage had been set for a massive land grab” and they feared eviction.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Vernamfield Aerotropolis, Jamaica
Country:Jamaica
State or province:Middlesex
Location of conflict:Clarendon Parish
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Land acquisition conflicts
Ports and airport projects
Specific commodities:Land
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Vernamfield Aerodrome, originally a United States Air Force Base, was shut down in 1949. Aviation analysts insist that Vernamfield, not maintained since its closure but with its main runway largely intact, is the only suitable site in Jamaica for an aerotropolis. Plans for a ‘city centred on air cargo’, a key component of a broader logistics hub initiative, were outlined in March 2019. The main runway could be lengthened to 4,268 metres, sufficient to accommodate the world’s largest cargo planes. In addition to the existing 809 hectare site the aerotropolis would encompass 1,619 hectares of land, some of which is among the most fertile in the country and was used for sugar cultivation.[5] Government plans to develop Vernamfield into a ‘mega air-port’, a ‘trans-shipment hub for the largest cargo and passenger aircraft’ were reported in 2011. Airport Development News stated that the multi-stage development, managed by the Port Authority of Jamaica, would be largely driven by the private sector with the Government developing the land and the airstrips in support of the commercial development. The Transport Ministry stated that arrangements for relocation of settlements were being finalised. The first stage would involve works to accommodate relocation of Jamaica Air Defence Force Wing and the Caribbean Aerospace College.[6]

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Project area:2,428
Level of Investment:2,500,000,000
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:02/04/2018
Relevant government actors:Government of Jamaica
Airports Authority of Jamaica (AAJ)
Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority (JCAA)
Jamaica Defence Force (JDF)
Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF)
National Land Agency (NLA)
Transport Ministry
JAMPRO (Trade & Investment Jamaica) - https://dobusinessjamaica.com/
Jamaica Special Economic Zone Authority (JSEZA) - https://www.jseza.com/
Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ)
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Forms of mobilization:Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Soil erosion, Oil spills, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Food insecurity (crop damage)
Health ImpactsPotential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Other environmental related diseases
Other Health impactsIllnesses caused by pollutants emitted by aircraft
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Outcome
Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Residents have expressed concerns that they might be displaced to make way for Vernamfield Aerotropolis since April 2018, and concerns about loss of fertile agricultural land and possible health risks from crop dusting have also been raised.
Sources & Materials
Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[12] Denbigh can be a critical link for south coast – Fulton, Jamaica Gleaner, 14 July 2019
[click to view]

[1] Vernamfield land-grab fears - Residents reject low offers for properties near multi-modal runway, Jamaica Gleaner, 2 Feb 2020
[click to view]

[7] Work on China-backed industrial park starts January, says Henry, Jamaica Observer, 3 July 2018
[click to view]

[8] Coal power plant to be built by Jiuquan Iron & Steel for alumina production at Nain, St Elizabeth , Jamaica, Environmental Justice Atlas, 21 March 2018
[click to view]

[9] Mike Henry's plan for Vernamfield gets moving next month, Jamaica Observer, 22 July 2018
[click to view]

[10] Census to be Conducted in Communities around Vernamfield, Jamaica Information Service, 13 October 2018
[click to view]

[3] ACI World Airport Development News: January 2011, Momberger Airport Information
[click to view]

[4] Jamaica: A Regional Manufacturing and Logistics Hub, Sancia Bennett-Templer, 4th Annual UK-Jamaica Investment Forum, 29 March 2012
[click to view]

[5] Cargo aerodrome to be built at Vernamfield — Henry, Jamaica Observer, 14 April 2017
[click to view]

[11] PHOTOS: Henry focusing on Vernamfield amid some new hurdles to clear, Loop Jamaica, 20 January 2019
[click to view]

[9] Cargo aerodrome to be built at Vernamfield — Henry, Jamaica Observer, 14 April 2017
[click to view]

[19] Construction of Fencing at Vernamfield Aerodrome – Clarendon, Airports Authority of Jamaica (AAJ), 4 February 2020
[click to view]

[13] Clarendon residents updated on Vernamfield development project, Jamaica Gleaner, 18 January 2020
[click to view]

[2] Clarendon residents updated on Vernamfield development project, Jamaica Gleaner, 18 January 2020
[click to view]

[13] Work on China-backed industrial park starts January, says Henry, Jamaica Observer, 3 July 2018
[click to view]

[14] Coal power plant to be built by Jiuquan Iron & Steel for alumina production at Nain, St Elizabeth , Jamaica, Environmental Justice Atlas, 21 March 2018
[click to view]

[14] Construction of Fencing at Vernamfield Aerodrome – Clarendon, Airports Authority of Jamaica (AAJ), 4 February 2020
[click to view]

[15] Mike Henry's plan for Vernamfield gets moving next month, Jamaica Observer, 22 July 2018
[click to view]

[16] Census to be Conducted in Communities around Vernamfield, Jamaica Information Service, 13 October 2018
[click to view]

[17] PHOTOS: Henry focusing on Vernamfield amid some new hurdles to clear, Loop Jamaica, 20 January 2019
[click to view]

[18] Denbigh can be a critical link for south coast – Fulton, Jamaica Gleaner, 14 July 2019
[click to view]

[6] ACI World Airport Development News: January 2011, Momberger Airport Information
[click to view]

[7] Jamaica: A Regional Manufacturing and Logistics Hub, Sancia Bennett-Templer, 4th Annual UK-Jamaica Investment Forum, 29 March 2012
[click to view]

[11] JISCO to Spend $3 Billion on Industrial Park and Special Economic Zone at Nain, Jamaica Information Service, 21 June 2018
[click to view]

[4] Vernamfield chatter - Project high on talk, low on work, says Clarendon councillor, Jamaica Gleaner, 2 Feb 2020
[click to view]

[5] Editorial | Vernamfield better deal than Bernard Lodge, Jamaica Gleaner, 17 March 2019
[click to view]

[10] Vernamfield aerotropolis getting strong interest from overseas investors – Shaw, Jamaica Gleaner, 15 July 2017
[click to view]

[12] Free Zone entities urged to start transition to special economic zone, Jamaica Gleaner,

7 April 2019
[click to view]

[6] Vernamfield aerotropolis getting strong interest from overseas investors – Shaw, Jamaica Gleaner, 15 July 2017
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

[2] Vernamfield Airstrip Development Plan, TVJ Prime Time News, 2 April 2018
[click to view]

[8] Video showing Vernamfield Aerotropolis as a key component of a broader logistics project - The sum is greater than its parts, Jamaica's Global Logistics Hub, Jamaica Logistics Hub, 9 February 2016
[click to view]

[3] Vernamfield Airstrip Development Plan, TVJ Prime Time News, 2 April 2018
[click to view]

[8] Video showing Vernamfield Air Cargo Facility as a key component of a broader logistics project - The sum is greater than its parts, Jamaica's Global Logistics Hub, Jamaica Logistics Hub, 9 February 2016
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Rose Bridger, Stay Grounded, email: [email protected]
Last update02/04/2020
Comments
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