In a recent development, hundreds of people from different parts of the state got together outside the Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun to object to the planned chopping of over 10,000 trees for further transformation of Dehradun Airport into an International Airport. Several hundred natives from Thano, Dehradun, Haridwar, Rishikesh, Bhaniyawala came together to raise slogans and tied ‘Raksha Sutras’ to the trees in the proposed project area, objecting to a scenario similar to the Aarey forest controversy.
This protest resulted after the Uttarakhand government took approval from the National Wildlife Board to transfer 243 acres of forest land to the Airports Authority of India. This project is of tactical importance as Uttarakhand shares a border with China as well as with the airport close to the LAC. The aftermath of this aforementioned project would result in hacking of as many as 10,000 trees, hampering the wildlife in the nearby elephant corridors. A 10 km radius of the Rajaji National Park Eco-Sensitive Zone also lies on the radar of the to-be impacted zone.
It is noteworthy that during a Bird Watching event organized in Thano by the state Forest Department back in 2015, approx. 104 bird species were identified in the region. These bird species, which include many exotic ones, will be put in danger because of this planned airport expansion project.
Among the protesters was Haridwar’s Ridhima Pandey, the 12-year-old Global Climate Activist who is also known as Greta Thunberg of India. Offering her support to the ‘Save Thano Forest’ movement, Pandey said, “It is so disheartening to see how we as a society at large are insistent on destroying our ecology pitilessly. These forests, for which we have gathered here today to save from being cut, are an unending lifeforce for the entire mankind. Let us all make sure to oppose against the hacking of trees till the time the decision is reversed.”
Another protestor and an environmental engineer, Ayush Joshi said, “Ironically, this is the time when we as a society should aim at planting more trees, but instead we are doing the other way round. The Thano Forest helps in keeping our city free of pollution, acting as a carbon and pollution absorbent. It’s high time that we develop a certain plan of actions to let our upcoming generations to be able to experience and benefit from the natural resources.”
Members of the Dehradun-based student activist group Making a Difference by Being the Difference (MAD) also participated in the mass protest. The members have pointed out that the said expansion could land a fatal blow to the traditional moment of Elephants right from the western part of the State to right up till the Tanakpur border with Nepal.