Jharkhand Puts Off Airport Construction Plans To Protect Elephant Corridor
In a welcome move, Jharkhand government decided not to build the Dhalbhumgarh airport. In an attempt to save the forests and the natural elephant habitat, the developmental project proposal was deferred.
The Dhalbhumgarh airport sought nearly 100 hectares of land from forests in Jharkhand that serve as corridors for elephants migrating between Jharkhand and the neighbouring state of Bengal.
An expert panel of the Indian government's Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) weighed both sides of the proposal.
In its statement, the panel informed that Dhalbhumgarh airport site is an abandoned World War II airfield which is situated 60 kilometres from the industrial city of Jamshedpur in Jharkhand. The present surface condition of the runway is not suitable for operations and there is no other facility available at the airport.
As per the information submitted to the committee, the total land requirement for the development of the airport was 97.166 hectares and of that 96.761 hectares was reserve forest land with 79,332 trees. The estimated cost for the development of the airport was about ₹100 crores which would provide better infrastructure facilities for air passengers, employment opportunity to the people, industrial and business opportunities, potential economy boost with increased tourism, trade and commercial activities in the region. Development in the state would imply an increase in revenue for the state.
The committee pointed out, "Any kind of ancillary development to facilitate the airport project would require encroachment on the forest land. The proposed site falls in the forests which are the habitat of a large number of elephants, also the animals travel from Dalma to West Bengal through this forest. Every year there are significant cases of man-elephant conflict in these areas. The disturbance to the elephant habitat by way of building an airport on their habitat and also by the sound of aeroplanes in the area and traffic movements will result in a disturbance in the behaviour of elephants resulting in increased human-elephant conflict."
In light of the given circumstances, the committee recommended deferring the proposal.
Twitterati were quick to appreciate the state government's positive decision.
It's a stay, not a win, but it's always exciting when a government rules in favor of elephants - Jharkhand Puts Off Building Airport To Save Vital Elephant Corridor https://t.co/jiZEMLg1eV pic.twitter.com/CPhoxdycre— Global Elephants (@GlobalElephants) January 19, 2020
Elephant Corridor & Migration
Elephants migrate and generally follow the same migratory routes year after year. They either tend to form individual family groups, several family groups or the entire population of elephant herds inhabiting a particular area join together in mass migration which provides them with the benefit of maximum protection along the route.
In 2010, Elephant was declared as a national heritage animal to work towards protecting the country's nearly 29,000 elephants. However, the loss of elephant habitat is resulting in an increase in the human-elephant conflicts leading to deaths of both elephants and humans. In the three years between 2015-2018, the human-elephant conflict caused 1,713 human and 373 elephant deaths by unnatural causes.
As per government's estimates, between 2016-17 and 2018-19, at least 1474 humans have lost their lives during such interactions. In 2018-19, the highest number of such deaths (87 of 452) alone accounted for in the state of Jharkhand.