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Dogs On Runway

Keeping stray dogs out of Dabolim airport is a collective responsibility

In the early morning hours last Tuesday the pilot of Air India Mumbai-Goa flight (AI33) had to abort landing at the Dabolim International Airport after he noticed some stray dogs on the runway. Luckily the visibility in the periphery of the airport was far better than previous few days in view of heavy rainfall. The alert AI pilot must be complimented for quickly responding to the risks to the aircraft and passengers owing to the presence of stray dogs and preventing an accident. The passengers who were expecting landing were dismayed and concerned when the flight went higher in the air instead of touching the runway. The crew told the passengers later why they did not land earlier. The flight landed safely after 15 minutes when it received all clear from Air Traffic Control (ATC).

ATC men or security men had obviously failed to spot the stray dogs. However, it must be said that it is not easy for them to keep a vigil over the 4 km-long airstrip, especially during the nights and more specifically in the rainy season when visibility is low. The Air India crew must be complimented for quick thinking to avert the danger. However, the ATC, the Navy, which controls the airport, and the state government have to find ways to guarantee that the operations at the airport are not hampered by stray dogs. If a plane hits stray dogs during landing or take-off, an accident can take place, endangering passengers’ lives. Stray dogs have been found moving about freely within the airport for a long time. The authorities have not been able to find a way to get rid of the menace. Though the Navy and the Airport Authority of India (AAI) have signed a memorandum of understanding with the state government for sterilization of stray dogs to control their breeding in their area it does not seem to have ended the problem. There has been a proliferation of stray dogs in the nearby areas, such as Indira Nagar, Gandhi Nagar and Mangor. These dogs manage to sneak into the airport area through drains in the compound wall and make it to the runway. They are driven away on sight during day hours, but their presence cannot be noticed during nights, especially when it is raining and weather is cloudy.

Following Tuesday’s incident air travellers have urged the director general of civil aviation (DGCA) to take immediate note of the serious lapses on the part of security agencies manning the airport. AAI officials admitted that the issue was serious in nature in some major airports of the country, including Mumbai and Chennai, but the problem was more acute in Goa. The government spends crores to fund non-government organisations to carry out sterilization of stray dogs. As the issue was highlighted several times in the past, the state authorities together with NGOs should have played a proactive role in curtailing the number of dogs. Animal welfare NGOs have played a proactive role in protecting stray animals, particularly dogs, from elimination. They have a social duty also to check breeding of dogs through genuine sterilization to bring down their numbers. After all, even though human life is considered precious there are measures taken for keeping human population within sustainable limits. So must the attitude be toward animals including stray animals.

The state government, the Airport Authority of India, the Navy, the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), the local municipal council and panchayats, and the animal welfare NGOs, all of them have a social responsibility to make coordinated efforts and take effective measures to prevent accidents on the runway owing to the presence of stray dogs. It has been learnt that the Environmental Management Committee (EMC) of the Dabolim airport headed by the South Goa district collector, which is supposed to meet every month to take stock of the problems faced by airport, has failed to hold a meeting for more than a year. Human tragedies take place when one or the other of the groups or individuals fail to carry out the responsibility assigned to them. The collective responsibility of keeping stray dogs out of the airport is but a sum of specific responsibilities.

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