Agra: Green activists staged a sit-in in Agra on Sunday against the government’s proposed move to shift a police battalion headquarters to a protected forest site that will create havoc in the ecologically sensitive area.

Several environmentalists gathered at the Shahid Smarak and said the move to shift the PAC battalion from the Taj Ganj area to Keetham forest on the Delhi-Agra national highway, 20km from here will prove disastrous in the long run.

“The Keetham forest serves as an ecological buffer between Agra and the Mathura Oil Refinery. Denuding the forest to accommodate police constabulary with arms and vehicles would require large construction and intrusion in the green territory,” said Devashish Bhattacharya of the River Connect Campaign.

The Keetham forest is an eco-sensitive zone with bear and elephant rescue centres, a bird sanctuary and the memorial to the blind bard of Braj Bhasha, Soor Das.

“The Mathura Oil Refinery pumps water for its needs from the Soor Sarovar which supports a wide variety of aqua life and reptiles like pythons. The ecological balance should not be disturbed,” Green Activist Rimjhim Verma told IANS.

The district authorities have decided to shift the PAC to make way for a Metro Rail yard and depot.

“But this site is very close to the Taj Mahal. Any construction activity in the vicinity of the Taj Mahal will be in clear violation of the recommendations by the Supreme Court-appointed S. Vardarajan Committee,” said Shravan Kumar Singh of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society.

Divisional commissioner Rama Rao, who is also the chairman of the Taj Trapezium Zone Authority, last week said the PAC could be shifted to the Keetham area on 140 acres of land owned by the state horticulture department.

The announcement led to a series of protests by environmentalists.

The administration had earlier come up with the project to set up a leather park in the forest area which was opposed by the eco-activists.

Later, a plan to construct the northern bypass to connect the Yamuna Expressway with the National Highway was also mooted but was withdrawn after stiff opposition.