What happens when you mix a growing, modern airport and an informal settlement?

For the attention of: Urban planners, community activists, airport management.

The problem: Cities in the twenty-first century are built on speed and global flows, and commercial aviation is critical to the success of such movements and circulations. Yet flying produces negative externalities for city dwellers, primarily in the form of aircraft-induced noise and other pollutants.  In the global South, deprived communities live in exceptional proximity to airports due to lack of housing opportunities, poor urban governance and planning.  This results in such communities bearing the burden of aviation growth.

What we did: We took an ethnographic approach and explored the impacts of commercial aviation on an informal settlement on the verge of the main runway at Cape Town International Airport.  Beyond purely quantitative studies, we attempt to highlight the ‘expert’ knowledge of communities that live in the jet-wash of commercial aviation.

What our study adds:

  • Ethnographic approach to understanding the impacts of airport noise and atmospheric pollution
  • Empirical evidence from the global South on the phenomenon of airport noise and atmospheric pollution
  • New perspectives on the relationship between aeromobility and the healthy city

Implications for city policy and practice: 

  • Highlights the need to embrace local knowledge from those communities directly impacted by airport noise as ‘expert knowledge’
  • Reminds urban planners particularly in the global South to take seriously the materiality and proximately of informal settlements and the relationships that they have with airports and flying.

Links to other resources and support:

International Association for the History of Transport, Traffic and Mobility http://t2m.org/
Cosmobilities Network http://www.cosmobilities.net/
Centre for Mobilities Research Lancaster University http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/cemore/

Full research article: Flying, health and the city: sensing aeromobility and risk in an informal settlement

Authors: Bradley Rink (@bradley_rink) and Lwando Klaas
Editor: Marcus Grant