By Arré Bench Nov. 26, 2020
Since its establishment in 2002, the Shivalik Elephant Reserve has been one of Uttarakhand’s natural attractions. But the reserve will be denotified soon, which will cause it to lose its status as a protected forest. Part of the former Shivalik Elephant Reserve is expected to be used for an expansion project at Dehradun’s Jolly Grant Airport.
Since its establishment in 2002, the Shivalik Elephant Reserve has been one of Uttarakhand’s natural attractions. But at a meeting of the state’s wildlife board, chaired by Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat, steps have been taken to denotify the reserve, which will cause it to lose its status as a protected forest. Part of the former Shivalik Elephant Reserve is expected to be used for an expansion project at Dehradun’s Jolly Grant Airport. News reports say the airport expansion will require 84 hectares of land, and expect some 10,000 trees to be felled to make way for the new structures.
Uttarakhand State Wildlife Board to denotify Shivalik Elephant Reserve. This will pave way for development activities, including expansion of Dehradun's Jolly Grant airport. The decision was taken at a meeting of the board chaired by CM Trivendra Singh Rawat: Officials
— Press Trust of India (@PTI_News) November 25, 2020
The move to denotify the Shivalik Elephant Reserve is another instance of India’s natural splendour being sacrificed at the altar of development. Earlier this month, another sanctuary in Rajasthan was also denotified in order to facilitate mining operations for the pink sandstone in the area. Now, the Shivalik Elephant Reserve will also lose its protected status, a move that has proven unpopular with environmental activists and critics of the government.
In our fight to save the environment we cannot afford to let our reserved forests be mowed down in the name of development. Too much damage has already been inflicted.The state govt must reconsider and protect the Shivalik elephant reserve at all costs. @tsrawatbjp @PMOIndia https://t.co/xd12FuIl5d
— Jitin Prasada जितिन प्रसाद (@JitinPrasada) November 25, 2020
Wildlife experts believe that denotifying the Shivalik Elephant Reserve will push human populations closer to wild animals, leading to an increased interspecies conflict. The former reserve is spread over 5,409 square kilometres, and the state of Uttarakhand is home to an estimated 2,026 elephants.
Amidst state govt thinking of denotifying Shivalik Elephant reserve for airport expansion, such numbers are cause of distress. This would lead to more loss of wildlife and increased cases of man-animal conflict. pic.twitter.com/JnF3xR9vCF
— Social Development for Communities Foundation (@sdcfoundationuk) November 24, 2020
The Uttarakhand government’s decision to denotify the Shivalik Elephant Reserve has met some harsh criticism online. Licypriya Kangujam, one of India’s youngest environmental activists, called it a “black day for all environmentalists” after the news of the decision broke.
Wildlife board is to protect the wildlife. Today, Govt of Uttarakhand led by Hon’ble CM @tsrawatbjp ji DENOTIFY the Shivalik Elephant Reserve to convert it into airport. Today is the black day for all environmentalists.
Stop such wild decision.
STOP DESTROYING OUR FORESTS. ✊🏻 https://t.co/9J3HGFuAPY
— Licypriya Kangujam (@LicypriyaK) November 26, 2020
India’s forests are home to a stunning array of biodiversity. However, too often, the country’s natural wealth is overlooked in favour of development and infrastructure projects that harm the ecosystem. Neglecting the importance of preserving India’s wild spaces would prove to be counterproductive in the long run. The Shivalik Elephant Reserve being denotified is just the latest step down a path from which there may be no return.