(Observer)Chairman of the Barbuda People’s Movement (BPM), and environmental activist, John Mussington has expressed doubt over the necessity of the government to expand the airport runway on the sister isle.
Last week, Chief of Staff in the Office of the Prime Minister, Ambassador Lionel Hurst allayed concerns over the expansion plans, stating that an environmental impact assessment and other studies were done prior to the decision.
“Every agency that has to be involved under the law will be involved in determining how far we can go,” he said during the post-Cabinet briefing.
However, the issue of the international airport’s construction continues to be an ongoing legal dispute.
The Cabinet’s decision to expand the runway by more than 1,000 feet in order to accommodate more commercial flights, was met with a sceptical view by the Barbuda Council who have long sought to challenge its construction.
“We don’t know what exactly that Cabinet [decision] is saying, we don’t know where this 1,000 acres is going to go. If it is that they are sticking under the new international airport, then we consider that to be just another land grab,” Mussington said.
“[The government] clearing out those areas that are sanctuary for the wildlife, particularly the deer and wild boar mainly because of the water that is there and the thick forest … when you are going to clear 500 acres of that without doing the necessary environmental impact assessment beforehand, then you are basically courting disaster.”
Mussington also argued that the maintenance cost of the airport needs to be taken into account.
“What does it cost to operate, maintain and keep up to international standards an international airport and do we have the means to do that?” he queried.
In July 2018, Mussington and Jacklyn Frank initiated legal action against the government in relation to the construction of the airport.
They alleged that the submitted Environmental Impact Assessment to the Development Control Authority was inadequate and ignored critical aspects such as archaeology, biodiversity, and geology at the construction site.
In August 2018, Justice Rosalyn Wilkinson granted an interim injunction stopping work on the airport.
However, that injunction was lifted a month later and the government was able to complete construction of the runway.
The government’s attorney, Dr David Dorsette claimed that the government had suffered significant damage, which is well in excess of $1.35 million due to the work being halted.
Mussington and Frank later followed through on thepromise to take the matter before the Privy Council and it is expected to come up within a few months, according to the BPM Chairman.