Wildlife Cor­ri­dors will get 7 pas­sage­ways to save an­i­mals be­ing hit by ve­hi­cles on road

The Free Press Journal - - MUMBAI - AKASH SAKARIA

The for­est depart­ment will soon build seven pas­sage­ways — un­der­pass and over­pass — on busy roads pass­ing through wildlife cor­ri­dors be­tween San­jay Gandhi Na­tional Park (SGNP) and Tun­garesh­war Wildlife Sanc­tu­ary (TWS).

The plan, which is for­mu­lated to save an­i­mals from be­ing knocked down by ve­hi­cles, comes five years af­ter Wildlife bi­ol­o­gist Vidya Athreya and the group ‘Mum­bai­ikars for SGNP’ high­lighted the deaths of 16 leop­ards be­tween 2006 and 2012. A re­cent re­port by Wildlife Pro­tec­tion So­ci­ety of In­dia (WPSI) found that 10 leop­ards were killed along the same ar­eas from 2008 to 2018. An­war Ahmed, chief con­ser­va­tor of for­est, SGNP, said, “A de­ci­sion has been made that two over­pass and five un­der­passes will be con­structed along the West­ern Ex­press High­way (WEH) at ar­eas be­tween SGNP, Bori­vali to TWS.”

Ahmed also added that the de­ci­sion has been taken by prin­ci­pal chief con­ser­va­tor of for­est (wildlife) af­ter con­sult­ing wildlife ex­perts. The

The plan comes five years af­ter Wildlife bi­ol­o­gist Vidya Athreya and the group ‘Mum­bai­ikars for SGNP’ high­lighted the deaths of 16 leop­ards be­tween 2006 and 2012

an­i­mal pas­sages have also been made part of 10-year TWS wildlife man­age­ment plan 2018-2028.

One an­i­mal over­pass has been planned near Shilot­tar vil­lage and an un­der­pass near Nagla vil­lage, both of which will be built by the Rail­ways. Two other un­der­passes have been planned on WEH, which con­nects Na­tional High­way 8 on the bound­ary of TWS and Thane ter­ri­to­rial for­est. Next un­der­pass will come up near Chin­choti vil­lage fur­ther down the same high­way. And the last over­pass will be con­structed one and a half kilo­me­ters away from Sa­ti­vali vil­lage along NH8 be­tween two hills.

Ahmed said all the up­com­ing projects around the park will only be ap­proved with the con­di­tion to con­struct an­i­mal pas­sage­ways. “There has al­ready been much is­sue wherein we are los­ing on pre­cious wildlife due to im­bal­ance be­tween devel­op­ment and en­vi­ron­ment. But such in­ci­dents will now be con­trolled through these in­tro­duc­tions,” An­war stated, adding the au­thor­i­ties are also in talks with the traf­fic depart­ment over in­tro­duc­ing speed con­trol mea­sures on high­ways. Vidya Athreya, wildlife bi­ol­o­gist who had con­ducted the study five years ago, said while the ini­tia­tive is wel­come move, there is a dire need to in­tro­duce a pas­sage­way in the ac­ci­dent-prone area of Ghod­bun­dar Road in Thane which breaks the park into two.

“Apart from aid­ing move­ment of wild be­ings, leop­ard ac­ci­dents could po­ten­tially lead to in­creased con­flict as it in­creases the chances of in­jured an­i­mals with­out moth­ers which could be fur­ther dan­ger­ous to hu­mans,” Vidya added.

The study, apart from ve­hi­cle speed con­trol and in­tro­duc­ing an­i­mal pas­sage­ways, also called for reg­u­lar waste col­lec­tion and com­post­ing es­pe­cially at the sur­round­ing ar­eas of the cor­ri­dors.

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