State dilly-dallies over Navy's firing range

Guns fall silent

The Karnataka Biodiversity Board agreed to drop its plan of convert the island as a biological heritage site, after holding detailed discussions with the Navy and other defence officials. The decision was conveyed to the centre on February 19, 2011.

Karnataka Chief Secretary S V Ranganath wrote to the Defence Ministry on March 14 citing the impact the planned naval firing at Netrani – also known as Pigeon Island – would have on the conservation of the island’s ecology.

In response, a top Defence Ministry official replied to Ranganath on March 22, reminding him of the biodiversity board’s clearance and requesting him to allow the Navy to continue firing practice on Netrani island.

The Navy has been using the island for firing practice for the past 60 years.
According to the defence ministry’s letter – a copy of which is available with Deccan Herald – the Karnataka Biodiversity Board has agreed that “the security and integrity of the nation is of paramount importance” and “in view of the strategic reasons on the West Coast, the historical claim of the Indian Navy to the Netrani Island needs to be recognised.

“The board has resolved to drop the matter of declaring Netrani Island as biological heritage site. It was also decided that Karnataka Biodiversity Board and Naval base Karwar should prepare a joint monitoring plan for conservation of biodiversity of the island and surrounding ” said the Defence Ministry letter, quoting the biodiversity board.
There has been no visible action on the island during the last month. A senior police officer stated, however, that firing should not be undertaken at Netrani and action would be taken if the firing affects wildlife.

Located off Karwar, the island, for a long time, remained a bone of contention between the Navy and environmental groups.

“The firing is carried out on a barren rock of 50 mt x 100 mt dimension with a height of 16 metres. The rock is located one metre away from the notified biodiversity area. No other place in the island is used. The firing practice happens periodically and we have to do it on Netrani because no other place is available,” said a navy officer. The issue had been explained to environmentalists as well.

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