Up to 10,000 trees could be chopped down for the expansion of Uttarakhand's main airport in Dehradun, news agency PTI reported on Friday, quoting forest department officials. The move to cut the trees in the Thano range of the Dehradun forest division could affect wildlife in the elephant corridors nearby, forest department sources said.
The Uttarakhand government has sought the National Wildlife Board's approval to transfer 243 acres of forest land to the Airports Authority of India (AAI) for expanding the Jolly Grant Airport.
"The proposal for transferring 243 acres of forest land to the AAI for the expansion of the airport, including its runway, has been sent to the National Wildlife Board for its clearance," Additional Chief Conservator of Forests, DJK Sharma, told news agency PTI on Friday.
The area in question also lies within a 10 km radius of the Rajaji National Park Eco-Sensitive Zone, according to Mr Sharma.
The wildlife board is now expected to take up the proposal at a meeting on October 5, Mr Sharma said.
The Jolly Grant Airport's expansion is part of the plan to turn it into an international facility. However, it is also of strategic importance to India since Uttarakhand shares its border with China.
The runway's phased expansion is expected to make it suitable for all categories of air force aircraft.
Extensive construction and widening of roads in Uttarakhand and other Himalayan states in recent years have been strongly criticised by environmentalists.
Experts have warned of severe damage to the region's delicate ecology and more frequent natural disasters because of projects that do not consider long-term environmental impact.
In 2013, Uttarakhand saw the country's worst natural disaster since the 2004 tsunami when devastating floods and landslides killed nearly 6,000 people.
With inputs from PTI