Sophisticated mapping technology can ensure that roads steer clear of wildlife areas, but the government has been reluctant to address the issue.
What’s the critical issue ?
- Policy is silent on a critical issue, that of highway stretches passing through forests, particularly, our sanctuaries and national parks.
- Speeding vehicles plying on these roads cause the deaths of thousands of animals, large and small, every year.
- A study in 2010 reported that 1,035 roadkills of wildlife recorded in 430 days on a 9.2 km stretch of NH 7, passes through the Pench Tiger Reserve.
- Highway stretches passing through forests cause severe fragmentation of habitats.
Recommendations for Bypassing forests, Way forward ?
- A sub-committee constituted in 2013 reiterated the recommendation in the National Wildlife Action Plan 2002-2016.
- Ministry of Surface Transport must plan roads, highways and expressways in such a manner that all national parks and sanctuaries are bypassed and wildlife corridors avoided.
If ‘Smart Cities’ comes to reality, then why not ‘Smart Highways’ ?
- For existing highways through forests, bypasses need to retrofit with state-of-the-art, science-based solutions for minimising roadkills.
- Carefully conceived underpasses, overpasses, flyovers and canopy bridges, taking animal behaviour and traditional wildlife movement patterns into consideration.
Lessons from models around world
- On Trans-Canada Highway passing through Banff National Park, where an 80 per cent reduction deaths reportedly been achieved, by an extensive system of wildlife underpasses and overpasses.
- With many developed countries having already shown the way, we have no excuse to lag behind.
Supreme Court caution
- Recall a significant observation made by the SC, held that our approach to development should be eco-centric, rather than focussing only on what is good for humans.
It’s time to walk the talk, not only by heeding the values enshrined in our Constitution and cultural ethos, but also by incorporating the best practices of eco-centric highways.