Jan 16, 2022 Letters
In my travel on the East Coast to conduct an opinion survey, around the greater Ogle area, loud helicopter noise drew attention. The noise was deafening. The noise pollution could shatter eardrums, especially of children and youngsters. Conversations were drowned out. I asked some people around the area if this noise is regular, meaning routine. They answered in the affirmative. In fact, many willingly came forward to speak to me about the helicopter noise pollution. They seek me to champion their cause.
I queried whose helicopter it was. Their response is that it was not one helicopter but several – perhaps as many as four or more. The helicopters belong to or are used by Exxon to ferry workers back and forth between Ogle airport and the oil production site. These are not small helicopters. They are massive aircraft. The flights are almost a daily occurrence beginning around 5 AM and ends around 8:00 PM. The residents of the area have to put up with the noise of the helicopters. The loud boisterous noise awakens them at 5 AM and they have no peace of mind until after 8 PM when the helicopters become grounded. The residents told me that the noise is overwhelming, so much so, that they can’t hear others in the house as the helicopters fly past. Their quality of life is severely affected.
The noise disrupts normal life in the Ogle surroundings. Turkeyen to Vryheid Lust have been impacted. Pets and other animals are scared. They also look up in the sky when they hear the propeller. Animals scamper for cover. There is stress and trauma to pets, the old, the feeble, the sick, pregnant women, and children. Students can’t get to focus on education and their studies early in the morning or late afternoon.
An aircraft takes off or land every couple minutes. Resident can’t cope with the noise pollution. It is unbearable. They say they can cope with the softer noise of small planes but not the massive helicopters or larger aircrafts. Ogle is not suitable for helicopter operations. In fact, as residents informed me, the airport was never intended for helicopter operation but small aircraft. The airstrip was set up by Guysuco for small aircraft to take off and land — spraying insecticides and fertilisers over the large canefields. It was not intended for a commercial airport and certainly not the giant helicopters, especially with in this compact residential neighbourhood.
The helicopters disturb the peace, disrupt lives, and damage peoples’ and animals’ health. It is not known if any study was conducted before the helicopters got a green light to fly.
At times, the helicopter hovered above for several minutes over buildings while waiting for clearance to land. People had to endure the noise. They can’t converse as they can’t hear each other untill the helicopters leave the scene. They are at the juncture of becoming deaf. Roofs could very well fly off as the helicopters hover above for long periods. In fact, zincs rattle. Trees are rattled like a storm hit the area. Objects fly around. It is only a matter of time before aviation tragedy strikes the area.
Some residents claim there is damage to the environment. They ask if the oil is worth it, considering the effects on the environment and health and potential hazards over the route of the helicopters. It is my considered view, that Guyana needs oil production to acquire funds to transform its infrastructure. Exxon must consider switching to softer helicopters or find another suitable location closer to the coast.
The residents say the situation qualifies for a class action suit. They claim they complained to the authorities without action. If no one is listening, a class action lawsuit is the way to go. It is a winnable public interest litigation.
Dr. Vishnu Bisram
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