The National Board for Wildlife has given its approval for an air defence and weaponry project in Jammu and Kashmir in which 1.18 hectares of land of the Gulmarg Wildlife Sanctuary will be used, The Indian Express reported on Thursday. The proposal was cleared at a meeting of the board chaired by Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar on July 18.

The project will also cover 12.35 hectares of forest land outside the sanctuary, the daily reported. Apart from air defence and weaponry installation, a helipad will also be constructed at the site. “Only radar system would be set up in the sanctuary area and all other basic infrastructure will be outside the wildlife area,” Jammu and Kashmir Chief Wildlife Warden Suresh Kumar Gupta said.

The radar system included in the project is intended to keep a watch on Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, and attempts to cross the Line of Control to infiltrate into India. The radar system has been a long-pending demand of the military.

“NBWL clears proposals of national interest with conditions,” said Gupta. “There are things which are in public interest, such as roads that pass through sanctuaries, and NBWL takes a call on such things.”

The Gulmarg Wildlife Sanctuary is home to protected species like musk deer, common leopard, barking deer, Asiatic black bear and others, The Indian Express reported quoting the Jammu and Kashmir Wildlife Protection Department website. The former chief wildlife warden had recommended to the board that the legal and propriety status of the sanctuary remain unchanged following the acquisition of land.

A standing committee that examined the proposal decided to recommend it on the basis that “the project proponent will comply with all the conditions imposed by the state chief wildlife warden”. It also recommended that the warden prepare a wildlife conservation plan and implement it with the help of the Indian Army to mitigate the impact of the project on the sanctuary.

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