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Op-Ed

On the proposed Greenfield airport in Nagaland

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By EMN Updated: Oct 13, 2015 10:01 pm
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Development of airports is crucial for equipping any nation with state-of-the-art transport and communication networks. However, these benefits often come along with venomous price tags and ultimately it is the local residents and land donors who end up victimized bythe developmental debris. The Civil Aviation Ministry, GoI approved setting up of three Greenfield airports in the North Eastern Statesviz., Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Sikkim to improve air connectivity. In Nagaland, the construction of Greenfield airport was formerly proposed at Chiethu under Chiechama villagein Kohima District. However, due to the hilly and undulating terrain which, according to the Airport Authority of India (AAI), may pose a limitationtoits operations and hamper further expansion of the airport and also sensingthe huge cost that would be incurred for its construction, the AAI directed the Government of Nagaland to situate another suitable site which is plainer. Consequently, the State Government“re-identified”the site at Rüzaphema village in Dimapur district(in fact according to the State Government report, proposal for construction of a Greenfield airport at Rüzaphema village was earlier moved in the year 2000. However, this site was not considered perhaps for political cupidity). Now with the directive of the AAI, the state Government is once again proposing the same site at Rüzaphema village, which was earlier surveyed (State Governmentcorrespondencemendaciously claims thatRüzaphema is in Peren District. The writer suspects a covert and ulterior motive of some vested politicians lurking beneath). Even though the topographic conditionsmay be suitable, the site is not practicable because of the fact that it is ahabitation area.With the proposed airport located within the village, the runway will cut through the village blocks (II & III), the distance between the airfield and inhabited areabeing negligible. Furthermore, adjacent to the proposed site, the village also harbors a reserved forest with one of the richest repositories of flora and fauna in the state. The consequences of the said construction would, therefore, result in enormous amount of irreversible losses to the rich biodiversity. I am in no doubt that development of an airport will benefit the local populace in terms of transportation, communication, power, water, employment (mostly unskilled jobs), plying taxi services, etc. However, it is equally essential to contemplate on the deleterious and detrimentalburdens that would be imposed upon the habitants in the long run.The proposed mega project will require more than 1000 acres of land.
This will, in effect, result in enormous loss of wildlife habitat, fragmentation, loss of fertile agricultural land, loss of communities etc. The other fallouts of airports and aviation include land take, noise pollution, air pollution, water pollution, light pollution, climate change and effects on the social structures of local communities etc.Airports and aviation cause air pollution through a wide spectrum of sources such as combustion of fuel, engines, aircraft tyres, fuel dumping, ground service equipment, painting, metal cleaning, de-icing, construction of airport-related projects etc. As a result of air pollution, a cascade of noxious effect will follow suit affecting the health of humans, animals and plants particularly the local residents and surroundings. Another detrimental effect is noise pollution, which is the most obvious environmental hazard of the aviation industry because it is easily perceived and is very annoying. Researches have linked myriad of diseases with noise pollution viz., sleep disturbance, anger, cardiovascular problems, mental health, hypertension, heart diseases, noise above 80dB may increase aggressive behavior, hearing impairment, erosion of community/social cohesion etc. The pernicious effects are augmented with loss of biodiversity, habitat loss and degradation. Scientific studies have shown that people living at the vicinity of airport are prone to suffer from diseases of the central nervous system, learning disabilities, stunted growth, hearing loss, anemia, kidney failure, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, stroke, miscarriages, premature births etc. Such are the reasonswhy “planned airports” are localizedon the outskirts of the city. I couldn’t agree more with this inspiring proverb that says,“When all the trees are cut down, when all the animals are dead, when all the waters are poisoned, when all the air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money.”I fail to comprehend why any informed and sensible authority would possess the audacity to make such a cynical and oblivious decision. Here is the catch, the proposed site includes inhabited areas and the construction at the proposed site will endanger the lives of local residents (land donors) and its surrounding villages.
In the event of any expansion, the whole village will be wiped out. As per the village record, presently there are 384 households (one of the biggest villages in the district).The incurring cost to relocate the community will be astronomical. This is not excluding the fact that as social beings, we also possess some sort of an emotionally embodied context of belongingness and intimate attachment to our land. Compensation in any amount or form will fall short of the damage done per se. The State Government should learn fromPakyong Greenfield airport in Sikkim. Frequent protestsby local residents of Dikling (Sikkim) against the damages done due to heave load walls, water scarcity blocked by the construction anddemand for proper rehabilitation and compensation have resulted in frequent suspension of work, escalating the cost of the project from Rs. 309 Crores to Rs. 605 Crores.
It is reported that,“An impedance of construction works started troubling the surrounding areas by which people’s land and livestock were endangered in several occasion, the pace of construction needed to regulate unevenly due to rain and natural calamity like 18 Sep 2011 Earthquake. As a result more than 168 houses in vicinity of Greenfield airport started developing cracks, some RCC houses were immediately notified for evacuation” (Northeast Mirror, by voice of Sikkim, 18 August 2014).The State Government has already made a blunder when choosing Chiethu, if the same mistake is repeated again in choosing Rüzaphema, the dream of a Greenfield airport will only remain a merehallucination. I am in no way against the development of Greenfield airport in Nagaland, I am only concerned about the present proposed location as it has been fallaciously and nonchalantly selected.Instead, the proposed site will serve as a perfect space for establishment of academic institutions such as Universities, Research Centres, Colleges and Schools. In view of these problems associated with the present proposed site, I feel that the issue should be deliberated further and restudied objectively,rationally and realistically. I hope for a development which will meet the needs of the people without having to compromise with human resources. Though these are my personal views, these views are also in consonance with the local residents who acceded and resonated with the concerns I have raised.
Dr. MechüselieKehie
Rüzaphema village, Dimapur
The writer can be reached at kehie10@gmail.com

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By EMN Updated: Oct 13, 2015 10:01:19 pm