The National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) has given its nod for an air defence and weaponry project in Jammu and Kashmir in which 1.18 hectares of Gulmarg Wildlife Sanctuary land will be used. The project will also cover 12.35 hectares of forest land outside Gulmarg Sanctuary.
The proposal, recommended by the then State Chief Wildlife Warden with 17 riders/conditions, was cleared at a July 18 meeting of the standing committee of NBWL. The meeting was chaired by Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar
Boost to monitoring capability
The radar system in the project is aimed at keeping an eye on aerial movements inside Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, and on attempts to cross the Line of Control. The defence forces lack such monitoring capability in this area. The proposal to construct this radar facility has been a long-pending request from the armed forces that finally started moving last year.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Wildlife Warden Suresh Kumar Gupta said that the proposal will be submitted for forest clearance once the wildlife clearance is formally received from NBWL. He added that environment clearance is not needed for all projects, and whether such clearance would be required for the project in question would be known after the forest clearance process.
The proposed project in J&K includes installation of air defence and weaponry along with helipad construction. “Only radar system would be set up in the sanctuary area and all other basic infrastructure will be outside the wildlife area,” Gupta said.
“NBWL clears proposals of national interest with conditions,” said Gupta. “There are things which are in public interest, such as roads that pass through sanctuaries, and NBWL takes a call on such things.”
According to the website of the J&K Wildlife Protection Department, “To ensure survival of highly endangered Musk Deer (Moschus Crysogater), Gulmarg Wildlife Sanctuary was upgraded from Man and Bio-sphere Reserve in the year 1987. The area is one of the best world renowned tourist destinations for its famous meadows, rocky cliffs, dense birch forests and a home for bird watchers.” The website says the sanctuary has rich flora and fauna bio-diversity with variegated species like musk deer, common leopard, barking deer, Asiatic black bear, Himalayan black bear, Indian wolf, snow cock, chakoor.
In the proposal to the NWBL, the then State Chief Wildlife Warden recommended that the proprietary and legal status of the protected area shall remain unchanged, NPV (Net Present Value) shall be charged in accordance with Supreme Court orders, the user agency shall pay 5 per cent of the estimated cost of the project to the J&K Wildlife Protection Department for conservation and preservation of wildlife and habitat, among other conditions.
The standing committee decided to recommend the proposal subject to the condition that “the project proponent will comply with all the conditions imposed by the State Chief Wildlife Warden”.
It also directed that “a wildlife conservation plan should be prepared by the Chief Wildlife Warden and implemented in cooperation with Army authorities to mitigate the impact of the project, the annual compliance certificate on the stipulated conditions should be submitted by the project proponent to the State Chief Wildlife Warden and an annual compliance certificate shall be submitted by the State Chief Wildlife Warden to Government of India.