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Environment Support Group
Dalit Sangarsh Samithi (DK)

request your participation in a

Memorial for victims of the Air India Crash in Mangalore

Followed by a discussion on

Is 'possible pilot error' a sufficient explanation for this tragedy?

led by

Fr. Ronald D'souza, Mangalore Diocese and former Parish Priest of Adyapady Church,
Mr. Arthur Pereira, Trustee, ESG and resident of Bajpe,
Leo Saldanha, Coordinator, ESG

Hosted at

School of Social Work, Roshini Nilaya, Valencia, Mangalore 575002
at 5 pm, Saturday, 5th June 2010

(Please confirm your participation with Joslin Lobo, Faculty, School of Social Work Tel: 9448488721 or Arthur Pereira: 9449208264 or by email: leo@esgindia.org )

The country grieves with Mangalore and families of those who tragically died in the Air India Express air crash on 22 May 2010. As expected, pilot error is strongly hinted as a reason for this crash and its eventual disastrous consequence. Is this a sufficient explanation?

Under the banner of Vimana Nildhana Vistharana Virodhi Samithi a struggle was initiated from the end of 1980's till 2005 to stop the 2nd runway proposal at Mangalore airport. The grounds for this resistance were simple and straightforward. The proposed site for the 2nd runway failed to meet the most basic norms and standards for runway design and airport safety, and safe flight movements of wide bodied aircraft. It was too narrow (200 m. against statutory requirement of min. 300 m.), and had no scope whatsoever for extension to meet future demands. Most critically, the proposed length of the runway did not leave any room for securing passenger safety in case of pilot error as the Runway End Safety Area was merely 90 m. against the regulation requirement of 240 m. and recommended 300 m. Most critically this site was surrounded by deep valleys on three sides leaving no possibility for emergency approach -- regulation suggests 1 km. emergency access radius. In addition a host of industries were proposed in adjacent areas, MRPL smoke stack interfered with the approach funnel of the runway and Mangalore's solid waste landfill was only 4 kms. away.

The Samithi proposed an alternative to the the north of the old runway at Bajpe. This alternative complied with all regulatory and recommended design and safety standards and could easily support future expansion demands. This alternative was shot, however, down because it would displace 70 landed families -- some very influential. Airports Authority of India and the Government of Karnataka had no hesitation meanwhile in dislocating over 300 predominantly Dalit families to build the 2nd runway. Disappointed with the Government's responses, the Samithi with support from Environment Support Group challenged this decision in the High Court of Karnataka twice and subsequently in the Supreme Court. The petitions were dismissed without at all going into the merits. A marginal relief was that the Supreme Court did direct authorities to build the runway in full compliance of norms and standards. But they simply did not care to comply with the Supreme Court's directions.

As we grieve for the tragic loss of 158 people from amongst us, many questions come to our mind. We are deeply disturbed that politics and lobby pressures forces our regulatory authorities to approve critical infrastructure -- such as airports -- callously overlooking safety standards and norms. Is it sufficient to conduct one more enquiry into this tragedy and then forget about this incident? Or should we do more to ensure such planned disasters do not recur?

Discussants will lay bare all the facts of who was involved in pushing for the construction of the 2nd runway at Mangalore airport in total violation of standards so that right action will follow with the support of people of Mangalore.

Krishna Nanda, Devdas
Dalit Sangarsha Samithi (DK dt.)
Bhargavi S. Rao, Mallesh K. R., Sruthi Subbanna
Environment Support Group

ESG is an independent not-for-profit organisation that promotes the cause of environmental and social justice through research, documentation, advocacy, training and campaign support. We aim to support the rights of local communities and voiceless ecosystems in a responsible, progressive manner that keeps contextual complexities in mind.