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
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-