J&K government on Saturday maintained that it would make recommendations to National Board for Wildlife for protection of eco-fragile areas of Gulmarg, if it approves the proposal for installation of Radar and helipad in the world famous ski-resort. "We have seen two spots there (at Gulmarg) where without any disturbance or tree cutting, with some conditions, the project will be considered," advisor to Governor Vijay Kumar, who is in charge of forest department told Greater Kashmir.
But, he said, the state government wasn't the "last authority" to approve the project mooted by the Indian Air Force. "The proposal is already under consideration of the (state) government. We will send our recommendations to the National Wildlife Board for approval," said Kumar. The final authority lies with the Central Board.
On Wednesday Greater Kashmir carried an exclusive story about imminent environmental disaster to Gulmarg owing to the IAF proposal to set-up radar system named 'air defence sensor and weaponry' in wildlife sanctuary area, apart from constructing a helipad in the forest area, on around 14 hectare land.
Sources said the issue had also come up for discussion on Thursday in 13th Standing Committee meet of State Board for Wildlife chaired by Kumar. Today Kumar along with a team of top officials from forest visited the ski-resort to make on spot assessment.
The issue had come up for discussion on 22 November 2016 when it was decided in the Standing Committee meeting of State Board for Wildlife that the Chief Minister and forest minister will visit the site along with experts to take final call on the proposal.
However, they did not visit the spot and as a result, the proposal has remained pending for past two years.
"It is a long pending issue and we don't want it to get delayed further…on the basis of our assessment we will be making our recommendation with conditions including on maintaining distance of 200 meters between Gondola and construction sites. If the thing (radar and helipad) is to be constructed the pollutions have to be avoided," Kumar maintained. On the occasion, the Advisor asked the Wildlife Protection and Forest Department to take steps to promote Wildlife eco-tourism and to harvest optimum level out of eco-tourism potential.
During his extensive visit to Gulmarg, the Advisor chaired a meeting with the officers of Forest and Wildlife department to review the Wildlife Protection activities in the protected areas. Reviewing the functioning of Wildlife Protection wing of the Forest department, the Advisor was informed about the details of protected areas including Gulmarg Wildlife Sanctuary and species of animals, birds found in these areas. Threadbare discussions were held on the rare species that find space in the protected areas along with conservation measures taken by the Wildlife Department. The Advisor asked the concerned officers to explore the potential of organizing jungle camps, educational tours to these areas roping other concerned departments including Youth Services and Sports and Tourism.
"This move will help the wildlife loving people and students to come closer to the nature and feel the importance of wild animals and rare species in the eco-system," Kumar said. He also had a first-hand appraisal of tourism related activities at the resort and chaired a meeting with the officers of Tourism department and Cable Car Corporation. For the proper disposal of pony dung at Gulmarg, the Advisor asked the concerned for installing dung disposal plant. He asked them to study the model that Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board has adopted for the purpose.
Documents accessed by Greater Kashmir had revealed that the radar was proposed for construction in the protected area of Gulmarg wildlife sanctuary and for this, at least 1.18 hectare land was proposed to be notified from the protected area network and 12.35 hectare from the territorial forest division (Jhelum Valley division), of Baramulla district in northern Kashmir. The area is home to the endangered musk deer, brown bear, snow leopard besides hundreds of plant species and avifauna. "The project is required for better radar visibility inside Pakistan-administered Kashmir and Pakistan. There is no service available in the region to track the aerial activity in the PaK region which has been a threat to various military and militancy activities during peace and war. Aerial activities in the area are a cause of concern," reads a communication by the IAF to the state government.
"The proposed deployment of server and weaponry is vital to providing such capability. After the installation of the system, activities inside the Pakistan territory would be monitored and shall provide an edge in detecting aerial or incursion attempts across the line of control. This will also increase the defence capability of the entire Kashmir region." reads a communication by the IAF to the state government. Subalpine and alpine ecosystems in Gulmarg are among the most important ecosystems of Jammu and Kashmir, dominated by alpine meadows, rocks and glaciers, high-altitude lakes and the sub-alpine scrub. "Upper regions of Gulmarg, including the Gulmarg wildlife sanctuary and Apharwatmountain, are an example of such ecosystems. It is one of the important watersheds for north Kashmir and any disturbance can have disastrous impacts," environmentalists have warned.