NGT notice to govt on regulating choppers flying to Kedarnath

NGT notice to govt on regulating choppers flying to Kedarnath

A plea seeking execution of the National Green Tribunal's order to frame an aviation policy for the eco-sensitive Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary in Uttarakhand today prompted the green panel to seek responses from the Environment Ministry and the state government.

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar issued notices to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Uttarakhand government, National Board of Wild Life and others on a plea raising concern over the looming threat to the flora and fauna due to regular operation of helicopters in the eco- sensitive zone in the state.

The wildlife preserve is known for its dense forests which has trees like oak, chir, pine, birch, alpine, besides rhododendron meadows and numerous flowering plants of Himalayas. It is also a home for endangered and rare species like Musk Deer and Himalayan Tahr (a type of wild goat).

A large number of pilgrims, intending to avoid the 16 km trek to visit the Kedarnath shrine in Rudraprayag district, opt for the chopper services to reach the destination.

The tribunal was hearing a plea filed by environment activist Kavita Ashok seeking execution of its December 10, 2015 order.

The NGT, in its order, had asked the state government to issue directions in consonance with the aviation policy with specific reference to the eco-sensitive zones at Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary in relation to the height and level of noise that the helicopters should be permitted to generate.

The petitioner, who has also sought imposition of penalty for non-compliance of the order, contended that helicopter operations in this area for religious tourism has "seriously disturbed the eco-system and fauna of Kedarnath Sanctuary".

In its plea, filed through advocate Gaurav Bansal, the plea alleged that the authorities have till date neither acted on the interim measures as suggested by Wildlife Institute of India, nor have declared the Eco Sensitive Zone for Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary.

"As the helicopter service is likely to start ... (soon), the respondents can use the gap period for preparation of interim measures as suggested by the Wildlife Institute of India.

"The applicant has learnt from the article published in a leading english daily that Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun has also suggested to the Uttarakhand Government to shift the Sersi helipad which is close to Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary," the plea said.

The tribunal had earlier declined to prevent flying of helicopters in the eco-sensitive zone at Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary in Uttarakhand and asked the state to issue specific directions in consonance with the aviation policy.

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