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Why are choppers flying so low over Kedarnath reserve: NGT to U'khand


The Times of India, Dehradun

September 2, 2015


DEHRADUN: National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Uttarakhand government to furnish explanation before it on why helicopters are flying so low over the Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary (KWLS) and the impact it might be causing. The state government has been given two weeks' time to file its report.


The Tribunal also observed that helicopters should not fly so low and should adopt other routes. Counsel from the Doaba Paryavaran Smiti, which filed the plea in the NGT, had alleged choppers shouldn't be flying at such heights within the Kedarnath valley and that too over the protected forest of KWLS. In order to fly over any reserve forest, firms should have permission from National Board for Wildlife, headed by the Prime Minister, which, it has been charged, was not sought.


The plea goes on to add that due to the intense noise made by the helicopters, many species of wildlife, including those in the schedule one category under the Wildlife Protection Act, have abandoned the area. This finding has been corroborated by a report that compared the density of animals before and after the chopper services were introduced to fly pilgrims coming for the Kedarnath yatra. The survey was conducted two years ago by the then divisional forest official.


The counsel further demanded that the eco-sensitive zone of the KWLS has not been demarcated as yet by the wildlife department, which must be done on a priority basis at the earliest. With the enforcement of eco-sensitive zone, the activities that are prohibited, regulated and permitted will be clear to all.


According to sources, it is possible not to disturb wildlife if minimum flight attitude rules for hill areas, as laid down by director general civil aviation, are adhered to. As per these rules, helicopters have to fly at least 500 meter above the peak of the hillock or hill concerned.


Dr Chanderveer Singh, president of NGO Doaba Paryavaran Smiti, who is also a retired scientist from the Haryana State Pollution Control Board, told TOI, "Helicopters flying so low cause extreme noise and air pollution, affecting the Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary."


The state forest department has already asked Wildlife Institute of India to conduct a study on the impact on flora and fauna from flight over KWLS.