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Opinions of Sunday, 5 May 2013

Columnist: Lungu, Prof

Re: Transport Minister Inspects 8,000 Acre-land

for New International Airport

We are mystified by recent statements (Joy Online, Ghanaweb, 3 May) by Transport Minister, Dzifa Ativor, that "the huge pressure at Ghana’s only International Airport demands that a new international airport is built urgently." According to the minister, the problem is, "aircraft are even struggling to find parking space at the Kotoka International Airport."

Quite remarkable and surprising on many fronts, we dare say!

It is astounding that already "8,000 acres of land has been secured and (government) is negotiating for additional 8,000 to add up for the project", to be followed by an invitation to "...the public to bid for a feasibility study on the project."


How can that be rational and of benefit to all Ghanaians?

Seems to us the government has the cart in front of the donkey. Why buy the land (i.e., select the location) before the all important "feasibility study"?

What are potential impacts, environmental included, of such a project at that scale?

Do the Transport Ministry and Ms Dzifa Ativor know that airports must be aligned to prevailing wind patterns so that the acquisition may be rendered moot if they do not acquire all the land needed in the right configuration, at the right location?

In that respect, consider that location is a top, possibly the most important, factor in this endeavor. This begs for evaluation of several alternative sites to the degree each location will fit the purpose with the lowest negative impact. In other words, why was that site acquired before the Ministry's due diligence "feasibility study" when the acquisition itself is not even sufficient for the purpose?

The fundamentally question is this: Given all of Ghana's socio-economic imperatives, why must a new international airport serve Accra? Better yet, why is it not more prudent to require an Airport Master Plan that competently tackles the single issue currently identified at that facility - parking limitations for aircraft? Did the minister request to review the Airport Parking Plan and ask why it cannot be improved safely? Do The Simple Mathematics: On this front (size of land required), who came up with 16,000 acres (25 square miles) for a new international airport, and why? (Consider that reportedly, Kumasi is about 64,000 acres (100 square miles). Question is, why does Ghana need a new international airport that is 25% the size of Kumasi, the second most important city in Ghana, a city that has an important, but undeveloped airport commensurate with its status, location, and economic significance?

Again let's do the maths and reflect. Consider that 2 international-grade runways 1,000ft wide and 10,000ft long, with 3,000ft extra each end of runway for safety, both adequately spaced 500ft apart, side-by-side. The two runways would require about 920 acres (approx. 1.5 square miles). For easy arithmetic, let's make all of that 1,000 acres for our 2 world class runways. Then add 3,000 acres (1,500 acres each side of each runway) for taxiways, aprons, terminals, Airport Control Tower and other buildings for operations , airport transportation access roads, etc. Further, add another 2,000 acres on the environs for public access transportation, lodging facilities, etc.

Dear reader, all of that add up to 6,000 acres (9.4 square miles).

Now, compare our 6,000 acres (9.4 square miles) to the minister's 16,000 acres (25 square miles), precisely 25% the size of Kumasi.

Wonders, Minister Dzifa Ativor and Ghana Transport Ministry! Seems to us the ministry and others with public investment information are trying to solve some equation unrelated to the "temporary" aircraft parking problem at Accra International Airport.

Just thinking out loud!

So it goes!

Prof Lungu is Ghana-centered, Ghana-Proud. Prof Lungu has extensive education, training, and work experience in airport planning and safety administration. Prof Lungu is currently based in Washington DC, USA. Prof Lungu is brought to you courtesy (c) (3rd May 2013).

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