Squatters face axe from Arusha
by Arusha Times Correspondent
To frequent air travelers, it could be a good idea to live close to the airport, jet engine noise not withstanding, but if you live within the airport premises as a mere squatter that does not impress many people.
Several people living illegally within the Arusha airport area have been given until March this year to vacate the premises or else they would be forced out.
Ms Esther Dede, the airport manager told the Arusha Times 10 condemned houses where the tenants currently live will be demolished.
She said some of the people living in the area illegally have been notified to move out since 2002 after the completion of the airport's masterplan.
Another notification was made on April 2, last year during which they were given three months to vacate the area but later requested extension until December 31.
However, until last week none of the tenants, some of whom working with the Tanzania Airport Authority (TAA), the airport fire brigade and the Tanzania Metereological Agency (TMA) had moved out.
Ms Dede said March 31st, 2009 will be the new deadline for them to vacate the area and have the buildings they are currently occupying demolished.
The official added that although some occupants were known employees of Government institutions with offices at the airport, many others were not known and could pose security risk to the aircrafts and its passengers.
"The tenants have invited their relatives who are not known to the airport authorities" she said, adding that some houses are used for bhang smoking and consumption of illicit liquor.
Ms Dede noted that the tenants' quarters were proposed for demolition under the airport masterplan for safe air navigation and security reasons.
Most of the houses, which have since then been condemned by the government building agency, were built on the pathway used by the aircrafts for landing and taking off.
Under the masterplan, the area has also been reserved for expansion of airport buildings, including hangars. One hangar is already being put up by a private air charter firm.
The airport manager was apparently responding to complaints by some of the tenants who complained that they should not be moved out of the area because they were working with "sensitive" Government institutions such as the fire brigade.
But Ms Dede insisted that under the current regulations, people are not allowed to live closer to the airports including those working in institutions operating there.
Arusha airport, one of the busiest in the country, handles up to 70 aircrafts a day during the peak season and about 30 during the low season.
Many of them are charters taking tourists to the national parks and other tourist attractions, mainly in the northern regions and to other parts of the country as well.
The largest aircraft it can handle is ATR 72 carrying a maximum of 72 passengers. The aircraft is one of those landing daily and operated by PrecisionAir.
Arusha airport was closed for two years in 2004/2005 during a major upgrading which aimed to increase passengers it handled to 150,000 and 15,000 aircraft movements per year.
Before its closure in 2004, the number of passengers it handled annually had gone up to 87, 252.
However, Ms Dede could not say how many passengers the airport has been handling since it was reopened to traffic in 2006.
The Sh. 3 billion rehabilitation also involved extension of the runway now measuring 1,620 metres and major improvements of the main terminal building.
Arusha airport is ranked second to Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam in handling the highest number of aircraft in the country and third after JNIA and Mwanza in passenger traffic.