CHENNAI: The Centre on Friday objected to the airstrip being constructed in Idukki. The Centre informed the Kerala High Court that clearance has not been secured from the Ministry of Environment and Forest for the Rs 13 crore, airstrip project at Sathram near Vandiperiyar in the Idukki district.
Environmentalists are of the view that the airstrip is likely to affect the wildlife and ecology of Periyar Tiger Reserve. The Tiger Reserve is home to rare endemic flora and fauna.
A Division Bench of the Kerala High Court Justice CS Dias and Justice C Jayachandran were dealing with a PIL seeking a direction to state authorities not to proceed with the construction of the airstrip and operation of aircrafts in 4.8565 hectares without obtaining clearance under Section 2 of the Forest Conservation Act and Environmental Clearance.
According to Live Law, the Centre informed the High Court that the state government has not sought permission to construct an airstrip in the said location and that no prior approval has been sought for the project although permission from the Ministry of Forest is mandatory for the project.
It was stated that the connectivity between the wildlife areas are very crucial for the movement of wildlife to ensure long term physical and genetic viability of the population and that linear infrastructure development like, road, rail, canal, pipelines, rope-ways, transmission lines etc crossing through such wildlife areas can act as threat for dispersal of wildlife, the report said.
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Last month, an environment activist and petitioner, MN Jayachandran told this daily that though authorities claim the purpose of the airstrip is for training NCC cadets, the plan is to operate small flights for tourists. "If they want clearance from MoEF, the Wildlife Protection Act has to be amended as it does not allow the flying of aircraft over the protected forest areas,” he noted.
“The aircraft will be flying low over the Periyar reserve as the runway is located close to the border. The high-pitch sound of aircraft will scare away birds. Wildlife is around 50 sq km of the PTR will undergo severe disturbance and it will affect the breeding ecology of tigers,” Jayachandran added.