A Pit­tance to Save the Price­less

The widen­ing of NH-6 is slic­ing apart the cen­tral In­dian for­est land­scape. WII pre­scribes fly­overs worth 1,200 crore to pro­tect over 15,000 sq km of wilder­ness but the NHAI wor­ries the cost is too much

Tehelka - - MEGHALAYA -

FIRST, THE stake: the heart of the cen­tral In­dian for­est land­scape and the fu­ture of at least 300 tigers in nine re­serves across three states. Now the cost: 1,191 crore; rea­son­able if you con­sider the 25,360 crore an­nual bud­get of the Min­istry of Road and Sur­face Trans­port. Peanuts when you recall that the Cen­tral gov­ern­ment an­nu­ally for­goes rev­enue worth 5 lakh crore os­ten­si­bly to boost growth.

But num­bers do not tell the en­tire story. Bio­di­ver­sity has no fu­ture in iso­lated pock­ets. To avoid ge­netic bot­tle­neck, wildlife must flour­ish in good num­bers across size­able for­est land­scapes. A vi­able tiger pop­u­la­tion, for ex­am­ple, re­quires at least 20 breed­ing fe­males and roughly 80-100 tigers. None of the re­serves in cen­tral In­dia — not even Tadoba with its 70 tigers — makes the cut.

But since th­ese re­serves are con­nected through for­est patches, wild an­i­mals move across the land­scape and the col­lec­tive pop­u­la­tion re­mains vi­able through ge­netic ex­change. Mel­ghat, Sat­pura, Pench, Kanha and Achanakmar form such a con­nected east-west land-

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