(An old article earlier published in Sachi Khabar.co.in)
By Colonel Awadhesh Kumar, Special Forces
As per the request made by the Indian Air Force, the NHAI had identified various stretches on the highway passing through the border district of Jaisalmer to enable the IAF aircraft to land during war and other emergency. Of all the people it is the Rajasthan Forest Department which has locked horns over emergency landing of Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft on a stretch of the NH-15 near Ramdeora in Jaisalmer district.
They are refusing to issue NOC to the National Highway Authorities for the IAF requirement. IAF has identified five such stretches along the highways of the border district.
While the Bikaner zone of the NHAI has sent repeated letters to forest authorities seeking approval, officials of the forest department have remained adamant and refused to give NOC.
The department has taken this stand as the proposed stretch is a breeding area of the Great Indian Bustard, a Schedule 1 bird. The forest department feels that this may harm the bustard, a near extinct bird, that breed in the area.
Now one does not know whether to laugh or cry at this obstinate attitude of the Forest Department. Once the environment clearance to build the National Highway was accorded then the role if the Forest Department is over.
The clearance to use the road for landing of IAF aircrafts is not their business, it is that of the NHAI. The air Space over the entire area is National Airspace and IAF is constitutionally empowered to fly in it and defend it.
It needs permission from no JOKER who so it might be or think they might be. Even the permission from NHAI to land is a peace time requirement and basically for coordination purpose and may be for permanent or temporary placing of refuelling equipment on selected sites.
During operations IAF is neither required to nor will seek permission from any authority……let this be clear to every one. PAF in any case will not seek any permission from Rajasthan Govt or any of its department to wipe out Ramdeora together with the Bustards.
According to forest department officials, every year four to five chicks of the Bustard are sighted in the breeding area near Ramdeora. “There are 20 to 25 birds around Ramdeora. With the aircraft landing here during emergencies or for regular exercise, the birds are sure to migrate from here.”
As per an forest official..Earlier, the Bikaner unit of the NHAI had repeatedly written letters to officials of the Desert National Park (DNP) requesting the NOC to land aircraft.
But DNP has been adamant on the issue. Deputy conservator of forest, DNP, Anoop K R said that the Army and Air Force have always been supportive of conservation, but the current proposal would endanger this critically endangered bird.
Enclosures have also been built in this area for the breeding and the results, so far, have been positive. The birds would leave the place as they are very shy and sensitive to disturbance.
This area is inviolate and has been proposed as an eco-sensitive zone.
As per the DCF there is an ongoing litigation at the Bhopal bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), this area has been proposed as a prohibited area for windmills and high tension power lines. Because of these reasons, we cannot issue NOC to the highway authority for landing planes.
DCF or PCF or any other FF should know that aircrafts do not land on highways on regular basis, they are quite fond of their runways. IAF fighter will land there once may be in a year or two years and that too just a few sorties. In any emergency no will even extend the courtesy to “ seek your permission “, they will simply land there. And the Entire Forest Ministry will be able to do nothing about it. Also by now the birds must have become immune to the noise of passing traffic and the fighters flying above. So any noise emanating from the highway us nit going to bother the birds.
Therefore just request the IAF not to carry out landings during the breeding season and we are sure that they will chalk out their plan accordingly. Also remember that by trying to hinder IAF you may encourage the PAF to try these landings !!!