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Helipad threatens blackbuck habitat

The Hindu, New Delhi, September 18, 2014

 

The 30-acre polo ground inside Guindy National Park, the last remaining habitat of the blackbuck, an endangered antelope, is under threat. Officials at Raj Bhavan plan to create a helipad there, despite objections from forest department officials, said a senior forest officer. Around 3.30 p.m. on Wednesday, a team of officials, including Hans Raj Verma, principal secretary, environment and forests, and Ramesh Chand Meena, secretary to governor, inspected the polo ground. After this, a meeting was held at the Secretariat. On July 22, 2013, Mohan Verghese Chunkath, additional chief secretary and secretary, environment and forests, had written a letter to Jatindra Nath Swain, principal secretary, public (protocol) department, stating that the noise and escalated activity over formation of a helipad at Raj Bhavan would impact the flora and fauna in the area.

 

The polo ground has been specially earmarked for blackbuck, numbering 320, and the area is maintained to suit the habitat needs of the animal. The proposed helipad is within 200 metres of the blackbuck habitat. Hence, it is not advisable to create a helipad there, he said. This is not the first time such a proposal is being pushed, said another forest officer. In September 1998, bushes in the polo ground area were cleared to create a helipad to facilitate the landing of then Prime Minister A. B. Vajpayee. However, as forest officers were adamant in their decision to not allow the formation of the helipad, the idea was dropped and a helipad was created inside Anna University. Naturalists, on condition of anonymity, said the authorities could create a permanent helipad at Anna University. Guindy National Park is the last patch of blackbuck habitat, and should not be disturbed at any cost. Already, under the pretext of expansion on the IIT-Madras campus, many open areas that were once blackbuck habitats have been taken over and buildings have come up there, they said.