Groenfront and Stop-AWACS

Groenfront and Stop-AWACS campaign at the forests of Schinveld

The Association STOP awacs is a dutch organisation of about 450 local members from eastern South-Limburg that fights against the noise nuisance caused by AWACS surveillance aircraft.

For 26 years the Association STOP awacs, in collaboration with other groups, has been organising actions against the presence of the 17 AWACS surveillance planes (a derivative of Boeing 707 civil airplanes) that are stationed at the NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen in Germany, very close to the Dutch border. The NATO uses this base solely as a training site. to train pilots. That means doing practice runs, flying loops and roaring over a dozen villages and towns here.

Most jarring, residents say, the lumbering planes with the big radar mushroom on their backs use 1970′s engines so earsplitting that they were banned from European civilian aircraft two decades ago. Residents of the Parkstad Limburg county experience severe noise nuisance from low-flying AWACS aircraft, which recently even operated at night to run in with their practice delay caused by the Icelandic vulcanic ash cloud. Noise measurements carried out by the Netherlands Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment showed that most AWACS flights produce noise levels of 100 db or higher.

Despite all protest, and complaints about noise and pollution, residents of the area feel ignored, both by the base and by the Dutch government, a NATO member.

Residents and the local active campaigners of Association STOP AWACS got support by the environmental direct action collective Groen Front (dutch/Belgium branch of EarthFirst) who like to shut down the military, pollutive airbase and save the forest that surround it at the dutch border near the village of Schinveld. NATO would like to cut down this forest, mainly oaks and birches which heights apparently disturb their missions.

In 2005 the dutch national government, despite rejection of the local government, overruled the local county of the village of Onderbanken with a special procedure and supplied the permits for the logging 20 ha (about 40 football fields) of forest. So, during the winter of 2005/2006 activists of Groen Front occupied part of the Schinveld forest and build up an action camp in the trees. After 6 weeks it got evicted, with 6 ha (12 football fields) of forest, a small 1/3rd of it, immediately being cut down. Already in June 2007 the Council of State showed it’s doubts on the legitimacy of action by the national government, but only in April 2010 it finally rejected the earlier decision of the government and declared the logging illegal. The other 20 ha (40 football fields) are for now saved due to the action camp. One battle is one – though residents are still bothered by noise and pollution and crazy plans of NATO every now and then, like extension of the flight paths.

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