Saifai airstrip gives sarus a chance to soar
CHIEF MINISTER Mulayam Singh Yadav’s decision to upgrade the Saifai airstrip has proved a blessing in disguise for sarus -- the state bird.
The Central Empowered Committee (CEC), constituted by Supreme Court for protection of wildlife and forests in the country, recently grilled state government representatives over the plight of the state bird in Uttar Pradesh.
The CEC’s approval for such projects is also required.
“You want an airstrip in Saifai! But, what have you done for sarus?” was the question the committee put to the state government representatives?
The state’s reply that it had sent many projects in this regard to the Union government, failed to impress the committee, which retorted, “It seems the state government has done nothing except for declaring sarus as a state bird.”
The state government then gave an assurance, backed by an affidavit, assuring the CEC that it would form a society for the protection of sarus with a corpus fund of Rs 5 crore.
But whether the CEC is willing to permit the upgradation of the airstrip has not been decided as yet.
It may be mentioned that Mulayam Singh Yadav had allotted Rs 44.68 crore for his ‘dream project’ of extension of the airstrip so as to support the landing of Boeing 737s. Assistance has been sought from professional groups like Railway India Technical and Engineering Services (RITES) to meet the March 2007 deadline. Under the proposed plan, a construction of a new ATC tower, a terminal building and an airstrip has been earmarked.
However, the plan had hit a roadblock following a PIL in the apex court against the upgradation of the airstrip, “as it would have a direct impact on the habitation of sarus cranes.” One-third of the total number of sarus cranes in India (about 2500-3000), are present in the Etawah and Mainpuri regions.
Environmentalists maintain that the extension of the airstrip would disturb the sarus habitation.
The affidavit is a legal binding on the state government to ensure the setting up of the society for the conservation of sarus cranes. The proposed society would have representation from all walks of life and prominent environmentalists, who could help in proper conservation of the state bird.
Representatives from the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) would also be a part of the society. Sources said that the state government has readied papers for the registration of the society and the transfer of the corpus money.