DEHRADUN: In recreation of famous 'Chipko Movement' dating back to 1973, thousands gathered in Thano of Dehradun on Sunday opposing felling of over 10,000 trees for expansion of Dehradun airport.
A 12-year-old 'Global Climate Activist' Ridhima Pandey termed as Greta Thunberg of India, who was also there to support 'Save Thano Forest' movement said, "We are hell-bent on destroying our ecosystem mercilessly. This is a threat to whole mankind. These forests are source of life. We will be protesting against the felling of trees until the decision is reversed."
Thousands of locals of Thano, Dehradun, Rishikesh, Bhaniyawala gathered and tied 'Raksha Sutras' to the trees pledging to protect those trees.
Slogans were raised and Raksha Sutras were tied around trees which represent that 'we the people' are the protectors of the forest.
Ayush Joshi, an environmental engineer and one of the protestors said, "At this age, where we as a country pledge to plant more trees, we are cutting more than ever. Thano forest works as the carbon and pollution sink of Dehradun, keeping it free of pollution issues. We must find a way to develop plans to allow our future generations to a be able to feel and benefit from the natural resources."
Activists, environmentalists are apprehensive that the move to cut the trees in the Thano range of the Dehradun forest division could affect wildlife movement in the elephant corridors and change course of a river in the vicinity of the forest.
Aanchal Sharma (28), a resident of Dehradun has started campaign on change.org urging the government to roll back its decision. It has got more than 20,000 signatures within three days.
"As I have said earlier too that this planet belongs to all species and not only to humans. We should be more considerate if we want our next generations to live and thrive in sync with nature," said Sharma.
Many experts pointing out the problems stated that Uttarakhand is already 'bleeding' from the 'devastation' due to parachuted development ideas.
"Projects like this will destroy our sources of existence and our sources of life. Every single time, the entire model of development adopted by the current government for the sensitive Himalayan region of Uttarakhand is dangerous.
"It should have been taken up with immense care. The government wants to copy paste the development models of the plains and don't want to invest time and energy even to understand what sustainability means.
"This is a clear evidence that the state has no intentions to conserve and are wearing blind fold to even analyse the needs of the future," said Vishal Singh, one of the protestors and and expert on environmental issues who has been working on projects for more than a decade now.
The Uttarakhand government has sought the National Wildlife Board (NWB)'s approval to transfer 243 acres of forest land to the Airports Authority of India (AAI) for expanding the airport.
The current length of runway at Jolly Grant Airport of Dehradun is 2,140 metres and it is proposed to be expanded to 2,765 meters with the construction of an additional 625 metres stretch for the runway.
The area to which the airport is proposed to be expanded comes within a 10 km radius of the Rajaji National Park Eco-Sensitive Zone which is why permission from NWB the is required.