‘Big projects’ are necessary for a developing nation like ours, ‘to grow at 8 to 9 percent per year, we need to take “big” steps’, ‘we need to sacrifice something in order to create jobs for such a large population’; these are some of the statements even you might have come across while talking to people about #SaveAarey, #SaveMollem or now #SaveThano.
This idea of putting development and the environment at loggerheads with each other is peddled by politicians, policymakers and imbibed by the common folks who want to see their country scale new heights of economic growth.
The economic development model only measures development in terms of GDP growth and fails to recognise the importance of the forests, let alone determining the financial value of the ecological support it provides to the inhabitants as well as the nation at large.
Environmental concerns raised by activists, students and environmentalists are considered exclusionary and often, an enemy of development. This idea continues to exist in our circles even when the evidence of climate change is there for us to see every day. When the sea level is rising at an alarming rate, we can’t ignore the dangers of destroying Aarey in Mumbai, and when the temperature is changing abnormally in the hills, we can’t afford to ignore the loss of Dehradun’s Thano range.
The Uttarakhand government is going to clear 243 acres of the Thano forest range in Dehradun for the expansion of the Jolly Grant Airport which would involve cutting 10,000 trees. The decision is to make way for a new terminal building, a larger parking lot for planes, a longer runway, and multi-level car parking.
- Thano is an important corridor for the movement of animals between the East and West parts of Rajaji National Park.
- Elephants of this park have been classified as ‘ENDANGERED’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
- Apart from this Thano is also home to tigers, leopards, wild boars, pangolins, mongoose and nearly 207 species of birds and several other mammals.
Thano acts as a carbon sink for Dehradun, which is crumbling under rapid development at the cost of ecologically sensitive areas. Thano acts as a carbon sink for the state’s capital, which is already facing a spike in air pollution and temperature.
The cost of destruction of this forest is a lot more than any short term benefits. Therefore, we need to question whether we need this kind of development at the cost of 10,000 trees. We’re making runways, but aren’t we running away from our responsibilities towards mother nature and the generations to come?
No one disputes that development is necessary; but we need to see that we don’t recklessly follow the league of nations who have crushed the ecological systems in the name of ‘development’.
It’s high time that we hold the policymakers accountable for any project, any plan or model, which rationalises the cost of environment and loss of ecological systems and livelihood in the name of GDP growth and development.
By accelerating the climate change, we are already hit by heatwaves, droughts, cloudbursts, floods and degraded coastlines. Let’s ensure we don’t continue on this path. Let’s ensure we #SaveThano.
Sign the petition here and join us in demanding the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand to move the airport expansion plan away from the lush Thano forest.