A green panel of the Union Environment Ministry has deferred its decision on the Airport Authority of India’s (AAI) proposal to construct a greenfield domestic airport in Dhalbhumgarh, 60 km away steel city Jamshedpur in Jharkhand, questioning its feasibility besides taking exception that the site was a habitat of the large number of elephants.
Situated at Dhalbhumgarh in Ghatshila subdivision, about 60km from the Steel City Jamshedpur, the airport is being built on an abandoned World War II airfield. The airstrip was extensively used by the armed forces during the 1962 and 1971 wars, too.
About 96.761 hectares (239.1 Acres) of reserve forest land will be required for the development of Dhalbhumgarh airport project to be set up at the cost of Rs 100 crore.
Refusing to give go-ahead, the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of the Ministry in a recent meeting has sought details of forest/ecological sensitive areas around the proposed site which falls in the forests which are habitat of large number of elephants. Dalma Wildlife sanctuary is very near to the site. Elephants travel from Dalma to West Bengal through this forest. Every year there are number of man elephant conflict cases in these areas.
The panel also noted that disturbance to the elephant habitat by way of building an airport on their habitat and also by the sound of aeroplanes in the area and traffic movements will result in disturbance in the behavior of elephants resulting in increased human elephant conflict.
“The proposed site is supposed to cater the Jamshedpur town which is 60 km far away from the city. Further, there is an airport at nearby location at Sonari is already existing. On the other side of Jamshedpur is Ranchi which is 120 km away and has a major airport. Jamshedpur is also well connected to Calcutta, which has major airport facility.
“It takes only 4 hours to travel from Jamshedpur to Kolkata by train. In the past Kingfisher, MDLR, and Air Deccan started their flights from Jamshedpur airport at Sonari but could not sustain their operations,” noted the EAC.
It further suggested that creation of an airport at site which is nearer to Jamshedpur town will be better for the people of Jamshedpur. For that a site near the Jamshedpur town may be considered with its pros and cons for building airport.
Now, the EAC has asked the AAI to submit revised pre-feasibility study including proper justification for proposed site as a fair weather airport situated at 60 Km from Jamshedpur city, details of Forest/Ecological Sensitive Areas/Wildlife Sanctuary/Elephant Corridor around the proposed site and ground water study and geo-technical study in the proposed site.