Tiger hit on Paoni Deolapar highway; wildlife lovers blame tall median breakers
Yet another tiger hit by speeding car on NH 7; conservationists blame tall median breakers that inconvenience animals crossing the road
The Paoni Deolapar highway that scrapes by the Pench Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra has pulled the plug on many wild animals ever since it was constructed, with three tigers killed in the last one year on the highway, and one seriously injured on Saturday. Wildlife lovers have blamed the high median barriers on the road for this since they pose a hurdle to the animals crossing the road and hence want the height of the road dividers to be reduced.
Mitigation measures lacking
A tiger was hit two days ago by a speeding vehicle allegedly belonging to a local BJP leader, on the NH-7 near Harnakund village close to the tiger reserve at around 7 pm. While search operations for the big wild cat are still on, a range forest officer trying to capture it, was attacked on Saturday. He was immediately given medical aid and is recovering.
Linear infrastructure projects located dangerously close to national parks/tiger reserves/wildlife sanctuaries have been a reason for worry among conservationists for years. In 2012, a report by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) had suggested that there should be 48 structures along the highway as a part of mitigation measures including 17 culverts and 16 underpasses but only three underpasses were built on this stretch - two of 750 meters and one of 300 meters.
Conservation photographer Sarosh Lodhi from the Conservation, Lens and Wildlife (CLaW) group said that there have been recorded cases of tigers moving all the way from Kanha to Pench to Chhindwara and back. "Pench also forms a junction between all major forests of Central India, like Kanha, Umrer Karandhla, Nagzira, Tadoba, Satpuda etc. There's constant movement of wild animals on this road. In a span of 430 days last year, across the 9.2-km stretch of the 40-km highway in Maharashtra, there have been 1,035 road kills," Lodhi said.
Wildlife lovers also want some space to be created between the median barriers along with small platforms so that cats and other animals can safely cross the road, along with chain-link fencing on either side of the road to funnel wild animals into using the underpasses and curbing over speeding on the stretch.
CEC suggested realignment of NH 7
The Supreme Court-appointed Central Empowerment Committee (CEC) had stated in its notification that this highway was an exceptional case where ecological security necessarily had to take precedence over developmental needs. "The balance of convenience would, therefore, lie in shifting the alignment of NH 7 from the Pench Tiger Reserve and closure of the existing road for general traffic even though the alternate alignment via Chhindwara entails longer distance and additional cost.
A substantial part of the additional cost of the alternate route can be set off against the saving in the cost of the mitigation measures which the NHAI would be required to undertake in the stretch passing through both the Pench Tiger Reserve and the Nagpur Forest Division. The alternate alignment via Chhindwara can be notified and upgraded as a National Highway," the notification read.
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