KATHMANDU: The experts have concluded that developing airport by cutting down 2.4 million tress at elephant corridor, is inappropriate in view of biodiversity and environment.
At a time when the government is preparing to construct Nijgadh International Airport by cutting down 2.4 million trees of 7,969.37 hectares out of total 8,045.79 hectares of forest land Bara district, the experts said that it would affect forest, environment and biodiversity in long term.
According to the EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment), the loss of Rs 21.21 billion occur directly only by cutting down the trees. “The proposed land for the airport is the main corridor of elephants. There is Parsa National Park only a few kilometers away,” said forest expert Dr Rabindra Shrestha.
“The wildlife connectivity from Jhapa and Koshi Tappu Conservation to Parsa and Chitwan National Park may be broken while constructing airport by felling down trees,” he said.
The EIA report of the airport was approved on May 24, 2018. Dr Shrestha, who is one of the experts preparing EIA, said, “We included details in the report what we observed and found. The report will not tell whether airport can be built or not.”
Speaking at the program organized in Kathmandu on Sunday, Dr Shrestha said, “It is inappropriate and unbeneficial by harming biodiversity and elephant corridor for airport construction.”
In accordance with the EIA report, there are 23 species of mammals in the project and surrounding areas. The project area is adjoined to Parsa National Park and there are Asian elephant, tiger, hyena, gianta hornbill, crane among others,” says the EIA report.
According to Shrestha, the elephants go to Bagmati of Sarlahi through Kohalbi, Bhalbaikhor, Tangia, and Jagalsaiya forest of Rautahat. They roam from Bagmati to Saptari, Koshi Tappu Wildlife Conservation and Jhapa, he said.
Dr Suraj Prasad Shrestha, former president of Nepal Forest Technologists Association blamed for damaging biodiversity by cheating people of Province 2 in the name of 60 million passengers flow annually.
“The airport is being constructed against the directives of International Civil Association Organization (ICAO),” he said. “There should not be runway of airport near wildlife conservation and national parks. But they are building in Bara.”
The airport conceived as an alternative of Tribhuvan International Airport has length of 10km towards east-west highway and width of 8km. There will be 4,000m runway with 45m width for two lanes runway.
The runway is only 10km far from the Parsa National Park. Suraj’s clam has been justified by the EIA report also. As per the ICAO directives, there should not be airport runway near to the national parks or conservations, according to the EIA report. “The airport runway is near Parsa national Park and the sound of planes will affect the wildlife negatively.”
EIA report says, “The proposed airport falls under the dense forests including sal, sisau and oak trees among others.”
Balkabai and Pasah rivers are at the east and west sides of the proposed airport. There will be hardly water in Pasah River during winter but floods rise during summer season. The tree cutting can affect the environmental cycle in the area, according to the EIA report.
The project construction can impact on air and sound pollution, land erosion, and minute environmental effect, says the EIA report. “The vehicle pollution will be tested from February to May around the project areas monthly.”
Out of total area of 8,045 hectares land of the airport, the infrastructures will be developed on 1,900 hectares. The total cost of the airport constriction is estimated US$ 6,560 million as per the EIA report.
“Plant 60 million saplings before cutting down trees’
The experts argued that do nothing cannot be taken as alternative despite inappropriateness of constructing the airport due to environmental aspects.
Dr Rabindra said, “EIA has been approved. If the government is determined to construct the airport, the saplings should be planted first.”
EIA report has also mentioned unacceptability of ‘do nothing’ for the development of second international airport for transportation and economic progress.
Rabindra said that 60.12 million sampling should be planted as compensation. “EIA report should not remain as only paper document. It should be mandatorily implemented,” he said. “A total of 38,294 hectares of land is required to plant the saplings at the distance of 1.25m.”
For this purpose, Rs 13.97 billion is necessary, which should be provided by the Tourism Ministry, EIA report says. “The cost is meant for planting saplings, and taking care of them for five years.”
A total of 2.4 million trees will be cut down but there is not any certainty of planting saplings. When plantation is uncertain, the Tourism Ministry has forwarded plans of felling down trees to the Ministry of Forests and Environment. The way will be paved to cut down trees if the cabinet approves it after the ministry forwards it to the cabinet.
Civil Aviation Authority in August 2017 offered the responsibility of tree cutting and construction of ring road for the airport to the Nepal Army. It will take about two years to cut down trees and take five years to complete all construction works.