On January 8th 2019, the portuguese government signed an agreement with VINCI (now full shareholder of ANA – Autoridade Nacional to significantly increase air traffic capacity in the two main Portuguese cities of Lisbon and Porto [1,2]. The deal includes: An expansion of the Portela Airport infrastructure in Lisbon which would increase possible air traffic by about 50%. An expansion of the Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport (Porto) which would lead to similar increase by about 60% . The building of an entirely new commercial airport in Montijo (southern bank of the Tejo) on top of the currently existing Air Force Base nº 6. This would also include the creation of new highway accesses to the airport and Vasco da Gama bridge (also owned by Vinci).
Not only would this lead to an enormous increase in air-traffic related CO2 emissions - the likes of which would make air-traffic the single largest cause of atmospheric pollution in the country – but the selected area is also one of the largest remaining wetland ecosystems in Europe, and a natural wildlife reserve crucial for dozens of bird species to feed in. The impact on local bird populations would be disastrous, to say nothing of the risk it constitutes for passenger safety to have birds flying at low altitudes near jet turbines . As if this decision in itself wasn't bad enough, the conditions under which this deal was signed are in blantant disregard for EU laws pertaining to the need to perform an environmentl impact study prior to the construction of these projects. The preliminary study was completed in late July, and as we expected, it's findings are confusing to say the least: It warns of grave environmental and safety risks, but says the location is viable . The project is now in a period of public consultation until the 19th of September, though participation by the population has been predictably low; We also believe the choice of this period is not an accident either, as August and September are the months in which most of the population is on holidays and is less likely to notice or protest this governmental decision, which is plainly detrimental to public and ecological health and serves the capitalistic interests of those who would truly profit with this deal: the multinational corporation VINCI and certain members within the Portuguese political class . Aterra is born in late April 2019 from a group of activists working with Extinction Rebellion and other climate activist organizations in Portugal that approached Stay Grounded due to the nature of our mutual struggles. We practice creative tactical civil disobedience in an effort to raise awareness about the need to decrease air-traffic, promote alternative forms of travel and shut down all projects and laws that would constitute an increase in airport infrastructure or Air-Traffic increase in General. Since its birth, Aterra has interrupted a speech of Prime-Minister Antonio Costa with paper planes, has interrupted the largest aeronautic gathering in the Iberian Peninsula (Air Summit) to denounce the organizers of greenwashing, and endeavours to organize events, talks, petitions and meetings to coordinate further action agaisnt these expansion plans. By late September - before the elections in October and in solidarity with Extinction Rebellion - Aterra and other partners will be organizing a Rave against the Airport, which intends to be a massive public event near the airbase with music, talks and other tools for political actions, where hopefully thousands of people can participate together to make their voices heard loud and clear: We don't want a new airport, and certainly not in a nature reserve! [8,9, 10,11]