Why don't Geneva people protest more?

In an article in the NZZ last week there was a query about why Geneva residents are only just starting to query aircraft pollution.

In the article in the NZZ last Thursday, July 4, there was speculation as to why, over the last decade, Geneva people have been much less militant than the Zurichois in protesting against the increasing unpleasant consequences of the continiuing growth of aircraft nuisances. The article did note that this might be changing with the opposition of environmentalists and people living near the flight path of aircraft to the plans of the airport management to build a new East terminal for long-distance flights.

The historian Bernard Lescaze, author of a book about the history of Geneva airport, suggested that one primary reason might be that, because of the geography of Geneva and the single runway, 90% of Geneva people, and everyone in nearby France, are not affected by aircraft noise.Thus, these 90% are happy to see the airport continue to expand (because they get the benefits without the drawbacks!).

Why is this changing? He thinks that the protests against the new East terminal are part of a wider movement directed against the overall growth model of the canton. There is other evidence to suggest that he may be right: the proposed referendum to stop over-densification of Geneva canton, in particular to stop more high-rise buildings and rows of unsightly apartment blocks, seems to have received much popular support and a sufficient number of signatures that it will have to be voted upon.

What is actually the impact of aircraft noise in Geneva as compared to other European cities with nearby airports. A new study in the UK, where people are madly lobbying for more runway capacity (but not where they are living, of course) looks at the ratio between the number of passengers transported annually and the number of people affected by aircraft noise, where the description "affected" is that the average noise each day (16 hours, from either 6am or 7am depending on the country) of 57 decibels or more.

For London's Heathrow airport, this ratio back in 2006 was 261, making it the noisiest airport to live near to. In contrast, the ratio for Manchester was 638, for Luton 3,927 and for Gatwick, often compared to Geneva, 9,233. Other checks, using a slightly lower noise level of 55 decibels, confirmed that Heathrow was the worst European airport for the impact of aircraft noise. Note that Gatwick, although a very busy airport, has a high ratio because not too many people living near it.

It is possible to calculate the same ratio for Geneva for the years up to 2009, because the value of 57 decibels is what is used as the planning value (valeur de planification) for residential areas. For that year of 2006 the Geneva airport statistics showed that there were 33,228 people experiencing daytime noise of at least 57 decibels, and that there were 9,962,987 passengers transported during the year. The ratio was thus almost exactly 300 Passengers per person subject to aircraft noise. This would have put Geneva as just behind Heathrow, i.e. as the second worst European airport for the impact of aircraft noise on the local population!

Can we know this ratio for 2012? Unfortunately not, because Geneva airport no longer ask the EMPA laboratory to calculate each year the number of people living inside the 57 decibel contour line. Since this is not the first time that statistics for noise around Geneva airport have been either abandoned or made unavailable to the general public, a cynical person would see it as an attempt to hide unpalatable truths from the people of Geneva!

16:46 Posted in Noise around Geneva airport, Potpourri | Permalink | Comments (1) | |  del.icio.us | | Digg! Digg |  Facebook



Posted by: Pierre Jenni | 07/10/2013

The comments are closed.