Forest Advisory

The Union Environment Ministry’s Forest Advisory Committee has finally cleared the Kolana Airstrip project. Under this, a proposal has been made by Rajasthan government to divert 120 hectares of forest land for the expansion of Kolana Airstrip located in Jhalrapatan district.

Airstrip Expansion Plan

As per the proposal, the state government is planning to increase the length of the runway from the current 1700 metres to 3,000 metres. This would allow the landing of bigger commercial aircrafts and the airstrip would be converted into a full fledged airport. Once constructed, this is going to be the first airport in the state to be maintained and governed by the Rajasthan government.

The proposed airport would follow international standards and the anticipated cost of the project is INR 164 Crores. It would also boost intra-state connectivity thereby leading to multiple benefits in terms of easing investment and tourism.

Clearances

CM Raje is taking a keen interest in the project and necessary directives had been given to start the work in 2016. However, the project could not be started at that time because the government had to get clearance from the forest department.

Now that the department has given necessary clearances, the project will be carried out in two phases. Earlier, the deadline was August 2018 but since the project got delayed, the project could go on for a little bit longer.

Environmental Concern

One of the main reasons for the delay in the project was the proximity of Mukundra Hill Tiger Reserve to the airstrip. As per the Environment Protection Act 1986, there should be no ‘damaging activity’ within 10 km radius of an Eco Sensitive Zone. Since converting forest land into an airstrip would imply a threat to the environment, the department didn’t clear the project.

Ease in Investments

As per the state government, the Jhalawar-Kota region has great potential for investment and growth. So, having an operational airport in the region would ensure air connectivity that would, in turn, ease investments, tourism, and employment generation.

Middle Ground

In order to give a green signal to the project, the FAC imposed several conditions to ensure that the conversion of forest land is compensated by the government in other ways. In lieu of the clearance, the state government is required to plant at least 1000 plants per hectare at another suitable piece of land.

Furthermore, there will be an additional 25% compensatory afforestation penalty    imposed on the govt for soil and moisture conservation. Besides, the diverted land couldn’t be used for building shops, parks, residential buildings, and recreational centres.

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