Construction of Proposed Airport in Jharkhand Deferred to Protect Elephant Corridor

The development projects often disrupt the natural habitat of wild animals, which results in inevitable human-animal conflicts. In a recent case, the proposed construction of Dhalbhumgarh airport has been deferred to save the vital elephant corridor in the region.

The construction of the airport requires nearly 100 hectares of land from forests in Jharkhand that serves as a vital movement corridor for elephants migrating between Jharkhand and the neighboring state of West Bengal.

Construction of Proposed Airport in Jharkhand Deferred to Protect Elephant Corridor

Image: Travel Triangle

The total land requirement for the development of Dhalbhumgarh airport is 97.166 hectares and of that 96.761 hectares is reserve forest land.

An expert panel of the Indian government’s Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has delayed the project stating that the construction could lead to an increase in human-elephant conflict in the area. The committee said that the “proposed site falls in the forests which are the habitat of a large number of elephants”.

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The Airport Authority of India (AAI) had presented the proposal regarding the development of Dhalbhumgarh airport in Jharkhand for “fair weather operations of ATR-72 types of aircraft”. The MoEFCC Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) meditated on infrastructure during its meeting on December 26-27, 2019.

The project has sought Terms of Reference (ToR) from the committee. The ToR are guidelines for conducting environmental studies of projects after which the project is considered for clearance by the committee.

During the meeting, it was revealed that the Dhalbhumgarh airport site is an abandoned World War II airfield situated 60 kilometers from the industrial city of Jamshedpur in Jharkhand. However, the current state of the surface of the runway is not suitable for operations and no other facility is available at the airport.

The committee warned that the Dalma Wildlife Sanctuary is very near to the site and as the elephants travel from Dalma to West Bengal through this forest, it could increase the episodes of human-elephant conflict. The compensation paid to the people of the region is authentic evidence of the presence of a huge elephant population in the area.

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The construction of the airport in elephant habitat could lead to disturbance in the area. The sound of airplanes and the traffic movement will result in the disturbance of elephant behaviour resulting in increased human-elephant conflict.

Construction of Proposed Airport in Jharkhand Deferred to Protect Elephant Corridor

Development projects disturb natural habitats, leading to human-elephant conflicts in the region  /  Image: Conservation India

The elephants were declared the national heritage animal in 2010. The total number of this endangered species in India, as recorded in the last elephant estimation in 2017, was 29,964. But, the loss of elephant habitat is resulting in human-elephant conflicts that lead to deaths on both sides.

As per an estimate, around 100 elephants and over 400 humans die in such interactions every year. The governmental estimates reveal that during 2016-17 and 2018-19 (till March 31, 2019) at least 1474 human lives were lost during such interactions. During 2018-19, the highest number of such deaths (82 to 452) was recorded in Jharkhand alone.

It would be wise not to disrupt the natural habitat of wild animals and let them thrive in peace. However, it would be interesting to see further progress in this case of deferred construction of Jharkhand airport.

Via: Mongabay India

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