People attend a torchlight protest in in Sulthan Bathery, Kerala, against the night traffic ban on NH 766 inside the Bandipur Tiger Reserve. Photo by Abhishek N. Chinnappa.

The bigger picture 

But ecologists and conservationists say that the bigger picture needs to be taken into consideration while deciding the fate of the highway. Many road ecology studies undertaken to assess the impact of roads and highways in PAs on wildlife have pointed to the negative effects of linear intrusions on the fauna. Experts in the field have been arguing for long that as India’s protected area network forms only four percent of its landscape, it needs to be left untouched.

Sanjay Gubbi, Scientist, Nature Conservation Foundation, who has undertaken studies on road ecology and the impact of highways on PAs, says that highways through PAs have a great impact on wildlife, including fragmentation of habitats, genetic isolation of wildlife populations, and more importantly mortality due to vehicular collisions. This can only get worse when we realise that the vehicular traffic in the country is growing at the rate of 10-12 percent annually. “In the interest of wildlife, forest conservation and sustainable development, existing roads within protected areas have to be provided with alternative alignment and existing highways should be decommissioned,” he says.

Mongoose roadkill on NH766 on the fringes of the Bandipur Tiger Reserve. Linear infrastructures such as highways through protected areas threaten the forest ecology. Photo by Abhishek N. Chinnappa.
Mongoose roadkill on NH766 on the fringes of the Bandipur Tiger Reserve. Linear infrastructures such as highways through protected areas threaten the forest ecology. Photo by Abhishek N. Chinnappa.

 

Banner image: NH766 signboard in Karnataka. Photo by Abhishek N. Chinnappa.

This story is co-published by Mongabay-India and The Bastion.

 

Article published by Aditi
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