Even as the ambitious Multi-modal International Hub Airport at Nagpur (MIHAN) goes through seemingly endless delays, the sighting of a tiger on two consecutive days in the project’s I-T area has put authorities on alert.
The tiger was seen by some labourers and security personnel in a shrubby area near Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and Infosys campuses, on November 16 and 17. Deputy Conservator of Forest Prabhunath Shukla confirmed the animal sighted was a tiger. “We saw it in a camera trap picture clicked around 10 pm on November 18. It seems to be an adult tiger,” he said.
Shukla added: “We will wait for some time to see if it leaves on its own. Otherwise, we may have to drive it out, or, as a last resort, capture it.”
Security staffers at MIHAN claim they have often seen blue bulls and wild pigs in the area. Baba Dawre, a political activist who has fought for rights of MIHAN oustees, said the site also has leopards moving around.
Shukla said the project site is near the Hingna forest.
“This area is contiguous with the Hingna forest, which, in turn, is connected to Bor Tiger Reserve in Wardha district. So, there could be movement of animals from there to this place,” said Shukla. “There are two lakes and shrubby vegetation, which offers a good hiding place,” he added.
People working in the various units, as well as those in the four adjoining villages, have been put on alert. A Special Tiger Protection Force, along with regular forest guards, have been deployed.
MIHAN, conceived over two decades ago, is still far from being the air cargo and passenger hub it was meant to be. Over 60 per cent of the land under the project lies barren, providing wildlife ample area to move around.
According to MIHAN Chief Engineer Subhash Chahande, “MIHAN stands on 5,557 acres. The SEZ part is on 3,054 acres while non-SEZ is on 2,503. SEZ’s 1,433 acres and non-SEZ’s 973 acres have been allotted to various companies. The rest is still open. We have sought help from the forest department in dealing with animals. We have also ordered clearing of bushes and vegetation.”
Chahande puts the number of people directly employed in the various units in MIHAN at 16,000. At least three times more are indirectly employed.
MIHAN was originally begun in 2005, when aviation giant Boeing announced its Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) unit in the area. The project took about a decade thereafter to start actual operations. Since then, many big companies, mainly from the I-T sector, acquired land here, but the pace of work picking up has been slow. The major companies to start operations are TCS, Tech Mahindra and HCL, while Infosys runs on a very small scale.
Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife) Nitin Kakodkar said, “We definitely have a serious problem on hand. Tigers seem to be breeding well but are probably facing paucity of proper habitat. So, some of them could be ending up in unlikely places like MIHAN. We will have to evolve a policy to deal with the situation sooner than later.”