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IAF Base in Ladakh: Wildlife Board approves new Indian Air Force Base in Ladakh

IAF Base in Ladakh: Amid ongoing confrontation with China along Ladakh’s Eastern Sector, the Indian Air Force has planned to develop a new airbase in Ladakh. IAF had approached the National Wildlife Board seeking its approval for setting up a new airbase in Changthang sanctuary area, right off the Line of Actual Control in the Ladakh Region. After assessing the request, the Standing Committee of the National Board of Wildlife has given its approval to the Indian Air Force to setup a new airbase in Ladakh.

The proposal for setting up a new IAF Airbase in Ladakh region was first moved in December 2022 following clashes with Chinese PLA soldiers at Galwan. The final approval to the project was given atthe  29th July Meeting of the National Board of Wildlife, chaired by Union environment minister Bhupender Yadav. With the clearance granted by the National Wildlife Board, the next step for IAF would be to seek environmental clearance for the project.

New IAF Base of 500 hectares in Changthang Sanctuary

The new airbase that is being setup in the Ladakh region will be spread across 500 hectares of land within the reserve. The project proposal has sought the use of 508.187 ha from Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary for the creation of the IAF Airbase within the Union Territory of Ladakh. The approval granted for the project also includes several conditions that IAF has to fulfil including compensation charges for environmental damage and measures that are required to reduce damage and impact on the vulnerable ecology of the region. As per media reports, the plan has so far received clearance from Chief Wildlife Warden, the State Board of Wildlife, and the Ladakh administration Ladakh. Following this, the Standing Committee of the National Board of Wildlife has also approved the project.

Significance of New IAF Airbase in Ladakh

The development of a new airbase in Ladakh that too at Changthang Sanctuary is of great significance as it will allow IAF to operate missions closer to LAC – Line of Actual Control, which borders neighbouring China. Until now, the Leh airbase of IAF had been the only facility from where IAF operations were carried out. In the 1960s, IAF also developed Advanced Landing Ground facilities built at Fukche. Recently, ALG was also developed at Daulat Beg Oldie, Thoise, and Nyoma, of which the Nyoma ALG falls within Changthang sanctuary area.

Other Key Defence Projects Approved in Ladakh

Apart from the new airbase of the Indian Air Force, the National Wildlife Board also approved other key defence projects in Ladakh Region in its 29th July Meeting. These include:

Mahe Field Firing Range (MFFR) Renotification

The Mahe Field Firing Range was operational till 2014 as the only facility which can be used to test-fire all kinds of weapons systems. The field firing range also falls within theChangthang sanctuary and is spread across 1,257 hectares. Located just about 50 km from the border, the facility serves as a key part of battle preparedness for armed forces where tank regiments and other mechanised units can prepare and train for battle. The Board has renotified the MFFR allowing the Indian Army to use it as a training ground.

Two Key Roads Approved near India-China border

Another two projects which have been given clearance by the NBWL include Khalsar-Agham road and T-Salu (ITBP border outpost) ChangchemoRoad Construction. These roads serve as logistical pathways for the Indian Army, especially for the carriage of ammunition. Looking at the security importance of these roads, they have been granted clearance by the Board. Apart from these, the Leh-Chalunka road upgradation has been approved

Other Projects Approved by NBWL

Another project which was greenlighted by the NBWF was the Indian Army’s project to lay the optical fibre network in border villages. As part of the project, strategic locations within Ladakh will be connected via fibre optic network. The Board has also given its nod to setting up of Nomadic museum in Nyomaalong with the snow-bound ISRO road linkage to facilitate the development of NETRA optical telescope on Mt Saraswati and improve connectivity with the Astronomical Observatory at Hanle.

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