BJP-led Government in Uttarakhand disappoints us by trading environment with development.
The Uttarakhand wildlife council on Tuesday, 24 November, passed a proposal to denotify the Shivalik Elephant Reserve as an elephant reserve to make way for the expansion of the Dehradun airport project. The Reserve which was informed by Congress in 2002, is scattered over an area of 5,409 square km.
This judgment was taken during the 16th meeting of the council under Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat.
The forest perimeters comprise Dehradun, Haridwar, Pauri, Nainital and Almora districts and some parts of Rajaji Tiger Reserve and Corbett Tiger Reserve.
The elephant reserve was ‘creating hurdles’ for development projects in the area.Forest Minister Harak Singh Rawat told in an interview and declared that this decision ‘won’t affect’ the campaign to preserve elephants and their habitat
Rawat alleged that the state wildlife board ratified the de-notification of the Shivalik Elephant Reserve as there is no ordinance to interpret an elephant reserve. Yet, “in future, if the Centre makes a law governing elephant reserves, then Shivalik area will automatically fall under its purview.”
The wildlife council also reportedly ratified a recommendation to start four new trek routes in Nelong valley that will now permit entry to 100 tourists and 20 vehicles in a day. Initially, just 5 vehicles and 30 people were allowed.
While the government says the move is intended to make way for development activities, environmentalists say, it is at the expense of nature.
This is because some 10,000 trees in the resource will be cut for the development of the Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun.
The government had decided the transfer 243 acres of forest land to the Airport Authority of India (AAI) for the expansion of the airport. Regardless, this was initially denied by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) in October and had raised a question for the Uttarakhand government to find an alternate space for the expansion project.
It was only last month, Jolly Grant Airport Director D K Gautam had announced that the state government will denotify forest reserve according to the criteria of the Environment Ministry. As far as trees are concerned, there would be plantation at some other place.
According to the latest assessments, Chief Minister Trivendra Singh there are roughly 2,026 wild elephants in Uttrakhand.
As per the elephant’s survey carried out between June 6 and June 8 this year, the number of elephants grew about 10 percent from 1,839 in 2017.