After the Union environment ministry raised questions regarding a 2008 violation of forest laws for construction of an airstrip in Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje’s constituency in Jhalawar, officials from the state forest department said they have penalised Public Works Department (PWD) officials in the case. The forest department may also request the Centre to regularise the boundary wall built on the said forest land, as part of a fresh proposal that requires 120.4 hectares of forest land to expand the airstrip, senior forest officials said.”The case from 2008 is not closed as yet. A case was lodged against three PWD officials and they were penalised. Only a boundary wall was built on that forest land and it continues to be in the possession of PWD hence it is a case of continuing violation. As part of this new proposal of the government, they (PWD) might be asked to pay up for the violation,” a senior forest official of the environment ministry said on condition of anonymity.In December, the Centre’s Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) appraised a proposal for diversion of 120.4 hectares of forest land for expanding the Kolana airstrip in Jhalrapatan in Jhalawar district, CM Raje’s constituency. The forest land sought for diversion is also 5-6 kms away from Mukundara Hills Tiger Reserve.The Centre noted that in 2008, 9.71 hectares of forest land were illegally diverted for constructing the airstrip. In fact, even a First Information Report was lodged against erring officials, as per government records. In light of this case, the Centre has sought to know how the state government allowed use of forest land for non-forestry use and also the outcome of the case lodged against officials.”As far as the proximity to the tiger reserve is concerned, it is up to the FAC to direct if a wildlife clearance is required for the project,” the senior official added. The Rajasthan government has pitched for expansion of the Kolana airstrip in view of the economic and investment potential of the region and since Jhalawar-Kota region does not have any operational airport in its vicinity.THE CONTROVERSYIn December, the Centre’s Forest Advisory Committee appraised a proposal for diversion of 120.4 hectares of forest land for expanding the Kolana airstrip The forest land sought for diversion is also 5-6 kms away from Mukundara Hills Tiger Reserve.

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Kolana airstrip in Vasundhara Raje’s constituency in midst of row