Is an airport in the Southern Zone necessary?
Early last year there was talk about building an airport in the Southern Zone, but is it really necessary?
The current Chaves Robles administration promised the construction of a new international airport in the Southern Zone of the country, specifically in the Osa sector.
During a tour of the Southern Zone by current President Rodrigo Chaves, a promise was made to build an airport in this area to encourage the socioeconomic development of the region.
It is planned to build an airport with a runway 2,600 meters long and 45 meters wide. It will accommodate medium-range aircraft, i.e., between 180 and 200 passengers. These will come from North America. It will also have a terminal, an apron, a taxiway, and the respective services for executive aircraft.
The airport would be located in the district of Sierpe, in Osa. According to Fernando Naranjo, General Director of Civil Aviation, this was the ideal place for the construction because there are no difficulties with winds, the land is suitable for foundations and construction, and there is enough space.
Not only that, but the location has good connections to the coastal and Interamerican highways and good connections to power and telephone supplies.
However, in order to begin construction of this airport, two studies must first be conducted to determine the feasibility of the project. These studies will be done in the next two and a half years since the idea of the airport was first proposed.
Why? The chosen site is located in an area that is a Unesco World Heritage Site. Also nearby are the 4 settlements with stone spheres, also a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Thus, two different studies will have to be carried out. The first will be an intensive archaeological evaluation of the archaeological monuments and the possible impact of the works. This study will be carried out by archaeologists from the National Museum, financed by Civil Aviation.
The second study is the heritage impact study, which will be carried out by international experts according to the parameters established by UNESCO and the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS).
Once the results of the studies are available, the project could begin.
Building an airport in the Southern Zone is not a new idea. In fact, during the Chinchilla Miranda administration, a decree was signed declaring the Osa International Airport project to be of public interest and of national convenience.
For biologist Jorge Arturo Lobo of the University of Costa Rica, the construction of a project of this magnitude would have a serious local impact on the Térraba-Sierpe Wetland, since the location of the project would be 2-3 kilometers away from the wetland.
The project would have direct effects on the ecosystem: the construction of the airport and then air traffic and increased environmental pollution. On the social side, dozens of farmer families would have to be evicted from their farms and lose their properties. In fact, these same families and the inhabitants of the region have already protested against this project since Laura Chinchilla’s administration. This contrasts with what is said to sell the idea of the airport: that it will be the solution to the social and economic problems of the Southern Zone.
Southern Zone Airport
However, the main environmental consequences of the potential airport in Osa will be seen in the long term. The airport will increase tourist inflow, investment development and real estate chaos in one of the areas with the most important biodiversity reserves in the country. An example of this is the area of Liberia, the canton of Osa and the canton of Golfito)
Some urbanization projects in the Fila Brunqueña have negatively affected the most vulnerable areas and have caused environmental disasters in the Sierpe lagoon, the Jacamar farm, Chontales, … Construction in the Fila Costeña was carried out on steeply sloping forest areas, which increased the risk of erosion and landslides.
In addition, wetlands and marine ecosystems such as the Térraba-Sierpe wetland, the Ballena National Marine Park and the Dominical-Dominicalito rocky reef were affected by the increased sediment load from new construction.
Unlike Guanacaste, where large hotel projects and housing developments can be seen, the southern zone still has an important forest cover of great biological value.
For the biologist, the airport in the Southern Zone is not necessary. It is enough with the expansion and improvement of the airports of Palmar Sur and Golfito for domestic flights and the improvement of the road network of the cantons for an environmentally friendly tourism.