Wildlife panel OKs IAF base, other infra in Ladakh sanctuaries near LAC

The Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) has approved the setting up of a new IAF base in Ladakh, where Indian and Chinese troops are facing a face-off along the Line of Actual Control since May 2020.

The approval for the IAF base was given at a high-level meeting on 29 July. The base, which will be located in the Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary in eastern Ladakh, not far from the LAC, will be spread over 508.187 hectares of land.

NBWL has approved eight defense projects in Changthang and Karakoram wildlife sanctuaries as India takes steps to enhance its defense infrastructure along the LAC in line with what is being done by China to upgrade its military infrastructure in the region. kind of initiative can be taken.

The projects were cleared by the Chief Wildlife Warden of Ladakh before being sent to the NBWL for approval.

The Defense Ministry will now require environmental clearances, including the Forest Conservation Act (1980) and the Environment Protection Act (1986), as the region falls under the protected cold desert of Ladakh.

The NBWL has also laid down: “The officers/officials of the Department of Wildlife Conservation shall have uninterrupted access to the project site for the discharge of their duties.”

As the government seeks to expand and upgrade the infrastructure along the LAC, the Standing Committee has approved the proposal for the utilization of 1259.25 hectares of land from Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary for Mahe Field Firing Range, besides the construction of an IAF base.

Upgradation of three roads located in the strategically important area has also been approved – 27.5 hectares from Karakoram Sanctuary to double lane of 22.5-hectare Khalsar-Agham road, for upgradation of 6.875 hectares from Karakoram Sanctuary to Leh-Chalunka road and 107.406 hectares from Changthang Sanctuary for the construction of T-Salu Changchemo Road in Ladakh.

The NBWL stipulated that animal passages should be enforced and maintained in these parts.

Environment clearance has also been given for laying optical fiber cables in these two sanctuaries.

Spread over 1600 sq km, the Changthang Sanctuary is located on the Tibetan Changthang Plateau and has some of the highest elevation lakes including Tso Moriri, and is famous for being the home of the snow leopard. Apart from about 200 species of wild plants, Tibetan wolf, wild yak, bharal, brown bear, marmot, Tibetan wild ass, and deep-throated stork are also found in the sanctuary.

The Karakoram Sanctuary has spread over 5,000 sq km in the Leh district and is home to the famous Tibetan antelope. This is the first time that the NBWL has taken note of the proposals for the Ladakh region as the region did not come under the Wildlife Protection Act before the abrogation of Article 370 for Jammu and Kashmir.

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