Airport’s runway project is on track
Cape Town - All appears on track for the Airports Company of SA (Acsa) to proceed with plans to realign its main runway at the Cape Town International Airport, despite concerns from residents of the noise impact on their neighbourhoods.
The R3.2 billion project will involve extending the primary runway to 3 500m in length, with parallel and rapid exit taxiways, that will allow for larger, Code F aircraft like the Airbus 380, to land.
The realignment will mean flight paths will be re-aligned 11.5 degrees anti-clockwise along the runway, directly affecting the amount of noise experienced in areas such as Edgemead, Bothasig, Bellville and Parow.
The public have been given their last say on the runway project with the comment period on the final environmental impact assessment having closed on Thursday.
The final EIA report identified and assessed the potential biophysical and socio-economic impacts associated with the proposed re-alignment of the primary runway and development of associated infrastructure.
In response to concerns raised by Edgemead residents to the draft EIA last year, environmentalists noted in the final EIA report that while the area would experience a higher number of flights overhead and thus an associated increase in the noise levels currently experienced, other areas like Philippi East, Woodlands, Mitchells Plain and Tafelsig would experience less noise.
A noise study found the impact on the project would be “very high” if unmitigated, and “high” when mitigated.
A height restriction of 304.8m applies over residential areas, except where residential areas occur in the direct flight path on approach or take-off.
“With predicted exceedances of noise level guidelines in residential areas up to 15km from the airport, a significant number of people may experience impacts on their quality of life.
“Conversely, many others (though fewer) will experience reduced noise levels,which may improve quality of life,” said the report.
Residents living in the city's temporary relocation areas around the airport also registered their fears they would have to move again.
The EIA did not consider the impacts of the relocation of informal settlements such as Freedom Farm, Malawi Camp and Blikkiesdorp, saying this would be handled by the city.
“The resultant negative and positive impacts on different communities are both rated as high while the impact on housing provision by the City of Cape Town is rated as medium,” said the report.
Acsa spokeswoman DeidreDavids said the project was important to allow for further growth of the airport and the local economy.
“Currently the runway is too close to the terminal building. By realigning it, we move it further away and will be in a position to expand the terminal infrastructure as well,” she said.
The realignment of the runway will allow for more aircraft parking, terminal and cargo development.
“When all is said and done, this project is about growth. The growth of the airport and the region as a whole,” said Davids.
The existing runway is able to accommodate up to 30 aircraft landing or departing every hour, but now processes about 25.
It is expected the final EIA will be submitted to the Department of Environmental Affairs in the first half of next month and a response could arrive by February.
If there are no delays, construction on the runway could start towards the end of next year.
Construction is expected to take 24 to 30 months to complete, with 200 direct temporary jobs being created.
Between 900 and 3 200 people will be newly and directly employed by Acsa in the long term.
To mitigate the effects of noise pollution in future, environmental practitioners advise noise contours be revised every five years to account for changed policies, improved technologies, altered flight paths and schedules.
The city should also be encouraged to consider predicted noise contours in future land use planning.
“With the exception of noise, the environmental assessment practitioners believe and the EIA report demonstrates that, through effective implementation of the stipulated mitigation measures, the adverse impacts can be reduced to levels compliant with guidelines,” said the report.