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Thread: Roads the bane of Widlife?

  1. #1
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    Default Roads the bane of Widlife?

    Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, former PM, kickstarted the road building programme with his Golden Quadrilateral dream. The dream is coming to become a reality.

    There has been a huge impact on various sectors of the economy due to the road building programme. Unfortunately, the roads have been the bane of most of our wild areas. Some of the pristine wildlife habitats have been dissected by roads. In the early part of the 21st Century, the motorable roads were much less. The dirt roads were not much of a menace, as less population and a low frequency of vehicles on these roads didn’t create much of adverse impact on the wildlife.

    Today, the quality of roads has improved a lot. The dirt roads have given way to metalled four lane or at least two lane roads. Increase in vehicles and increase in disposable incomes have led to a boom in tourism. The improvement in quality of roads has led to more and more people driving to destinations, instead of taking public transport.

    And along with that comes accidents, throwing of garbage, teasing animals, zooming past animals at high speeds to terrorise them etc. At times, you would be amazed at the level of immaturity and recklessness shown by the people.

    Road kills are becoming common these days. Lot of mega fauna like tigers are also falling prey to this road menace.

    Most of the people are ignorant. A quick briefing of people entering the sanctuary should help. The briefing can be just two or three lines while opening the forest entry gates, like “Please don’t Honk”, “Please don’t litter” and “please maintain 30kmph speed limit”.

    People also violate rules as they don’t feel that there is any patrolling by the forest officials. Forest department is in perennial shortage of staff. Most of them are old and on the verge of retirement. Meager salary also doesn’t help in motivating them.

    Most of the vehicles given for patrolling are used by the officials. So the forest department should provide battery operated vehicles that you mostly find in Golf courses. These vehicles, apart from stopping pollution, also won’t be misused. As officials won’t be seen taking these vehicles for any other purpose.

    One of the solutions could be to create alternate alignments for existing roads passing through core areas and migration paths of animals.

    We can also take clue from the Underpass and Over bridges constructed in most of the National Parks in US.

    The major problem is the lack of awareness among the planners. Unfortunately, we as conservationists have failed in our duty to educate and sensitise people - both the common man as well as the planners, administrators and other decision makers - about the plight of wildlife.



    What you can do:
    • You can spread the message and educate people.
    • You can write a letter to the forest department and the ministry highlighting the issues and ask them to sanction more posts for the forest department and urge them to fill the existing vacancies.
    I look forward to your comments and your ideas on this topic.

  2. #2
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    Hi
    Yes roads appear to be a major thorn in the flesh in retaining key habitat corridors in our fast disappearing wildlife reserves. In fact, one such conservation group, the Kenneth Anderson Nature Society, is working with the Karnataka Forest Departments to educate road users on how a forest road should be respected and how to react when an animal is sighted. These activities take place at Bandipur and Nagarahole every week and the aim of these drives are to increase visibility of road kill incidents that occur and severely damage wild stock. In Nagarahole, the group recently painted speed breakers throughout the stretch of the forest to reduce the impact of 'blind spots' created through unkempt roads that lead to vehicle-animal impact.
    An interesting thing is that even though these roads pass through forests, where the road is an NH, the Forest Department cannot levy a fine for speeding as this falls under the NHAI blanket and not the FD! Ridiculous. We are working with the FD to arrive at a solution that is used in some game parks in Africa where each car is given a slip at each end of the forest and the time taken to cover the distance is monitored, i.e. averages for speed, distance and time are taken and those found above or below the averages are fined for either stopping or overspeeding. Of course things like punctures and breakdowns are to be counted in, but that's a solution that can be worked with.

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    Naren,
    I came back from Nagarhole on sunday. For the first time in my life, the forest guard near the entry gate told me not to honk, not play music. It is a welcome change. I am sure, with proper training the guards can act as good messengers.

    I came across the visibility improvement work undertaken by you and your team. Good job. Keep it up.

    I have seen people invariably speed up when the see a good road. Especially when you are driving long distance, the urge to reach your home faster over rides any concern for accidents. In some of the forest reserves, the roads are purposefully not maintained to prevent overspeeding.

    During my recent Parmabikulam visit, I saw a herd of gaurs run and cross the road. I had stopped at a safe distance, but the Gaur herd appeared to be running for the lives. I am sure, they don't consider the road to be safe.

    In Nagarhole, during my previous visit, I found a tusker carefully looked at left and right - to see whether there are any vehicles - and then crossed the road. It reminded me of my childhood days when we were taught how to cross the road. I am sure, the animals are becoming wiser, but the fast moving vehicles take a heavey toll on the animals.

    This year a tiger was hit by a tourist bus in Corbett. Couple of years back a tiger was hit badly by a vehicle near Tala in Bandhavgarh. The list gets longer by the day. Its time for action.
    Cheers,
    Sabyasachi

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    Sabyasachi,
    Yes it is time to do something. I believe quite strongly that the power still lies with people like you and me. Just today I had a discussion with WCS India, and the Director has agreed to let us take on a visitor awareness programme at Nagarahole to educate people on how to behave in jungle environs and on safari's. We are not far off from reaching a situation where we can be threatened severly by man-animal conflict. As of now the animal species is losing numbers fast, but species are built to fight back. As you've so well documented below, the behaviour of the gaur and elephant just goes to show how well they have adapted to human intrusion, whereas we on the other hand, are still floundering about in their territory. Fantastic adaptability, but we need to become the guardians of the forest.
    Rgds, Naren

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    Naren,

    That is really good to do a awareness program, since i have experiencesd so many times people behave as if they are in a Zoo and not in a jungle. The Forest department people dont have enough man power to keep a watch on the passing vehicals and well educated people like us behave this way. I think it is time we took the lead.

    Please keep us posted as to what will be your actions so we can participate as well.
    Regards,
    Mrudul Godbole

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    Mrudul,
    Yes. It is actually quite strange that people think that a wildlife park is a zoo, hence they want to see animals all over the place and patience takes a back seat.
    Sure, will keep you guys informed of any programme that we are conducting. I should have an update early next week.
    Rgds, Naren

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    This image of a huge adult Gaur (Bos Gaurus) trying to cross the road was captured in Mudumalai Tiger Reserve. The road from Bandipur passes through Mudumalai and connects Ooty.

    I was watching a herd of elephants numbering about 40 with three small calves. They were on both the sides of the road. The elephants were grazing peacefully, but were too close to the road for comfort. Soon a small herd of Gaurs arrived there. A young bull elephant started chasing these Gaurs. The Gaur then tried to cross the road. By this time, vehicles had piled up on both sides of the road. It was a traffic jam. People were not aware about the danger of approaching close to the elephants and gaurs.

    There is always a fight to flight distance among animals. If you are too close for comfort, and if their path is blocked then they can charge. It is stressful for the animals as well. Animals like deers are known to collapse due to the huge adrenalin flow, if you chase them or try to capture them.

    I am sure raising awareness levels will help in these kind of situations.
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    Hi Sabyasachi.

    I am relatively new in the conservation area, but have been travelling a little bit & was able to identify the actionable issues, which could be taken up by us.

    Just wondering whether every state in India have a "Wildlife Action Plans" ? Take for example, Kerala, Tamilnadu & Karnataka. Do these states have a Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation strategy, so that, they could be followed strictly or could be presented at the national level in the government or any other Wildlife conservation society to procure good amount of funding to take care of the implementation ? Many a times, we keep hearing about the shortage of funds, Forest Officers being lenient or taking bribes etc.

    Taking the USA model, US congress required that each state develop its own Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy, which was also known as State Wildlife Action Plan, as a condition for states to receive State Wildlife Grants Funding. Apparently, the goal of the plan is to recover at-risk species to prevent future endangered species listings.The Wildlife Conservation Society created the Wildlife Action Opportunities grant program to accelerate the implementation of State Wildlife Action plans through new public-private partnerships. One of the attributes of State Wildlife Actions Plans is that they are tailored to meet the needs of individual states.

    Is there any way, we could work on that format.. I know, this is more government centric, nevertheless, it is good know the focus & mission of the state.

    I have no solution for this point, but this is just a thought.. I wonder how do we get enough number of young, energetic bureaucrats on board by taking / adopting IFS [Indian Forest Service] as a good career ?

    I am sure, we have enough number of NGO's working in the environmental area in India as well. I wonder, how many of them work in the wildlife conservation? Perhaps, we could touchbase with them & see how to take the initiatives further.

    Personally,I think, educating everyone, whoever enters the wildlife sanctuary is a must. I agree with your point..There ought to be a huge penalty, should anyone violate any of the forest rules, the officers need to deal with the violaters very strictly. But then, how do we get the officers to be strict ? Another concern. Ok..Avoid the temptation of accepting bribes & being a yes master for the power-centric babus. Is this possible in today's scenario ? I only wish bribing & corruption, which is a main culprit does not manifest more, else we will surely lose out on all our efforts.
    Secondly, having more bill boards & signages, which are easy for an eye, should be promptly displayed in the forest area at every curve & at every strategic place. This might be an added welcome.
    Thirdly, Litter. This is another point, perfectly mentioned here. I have seen a lot of people throwing plastic covers & other food items on the road. In some areas, I have personally picked & put them inside the garbage cans, which are permanently over-filled & filthy. Its a sad case. Sometimes animals come without realizing what is likely to hit them in next few seconds.
    Fourthly,I remember mentioning it before, to reach out to the kids in schools, whenever or wherever possible. Start spreading the message, when young.

  9. #9
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    Its indeed very sad that tourists don't behave when inside the forest. I visited Tadoba earlier this year and was very depressed on witnessing the dismal attitude of some of the tourists. Some of them wanted a rest place and eating and drinking facilities inside the forest.
    One more thing what I observed was that some of the if tourists failed to spot a tiger they came back and were like there is noting inside the forest. They fail to understand that there are lot of other species of plants and animals too.
    Spreading awareness will surely help the cause.
    " Where there is awareness, there is Hope "

  10. #10
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    Neil,
    I agree with your point. Our wildlife tourism is more tiger centric. Infact, it is heavily focussed on our mega fauna - the Tiger, Rhino, Elephant, Leopard and Gaur. In the forests of South India, it is relatively easier to sight an Elephant or Gaur, so people don't get excited about them. In Corbett Elephant is easier than the tiger.

    I won't blame people for this. It is the failure of those involved in our wildlife tourism. The tour operator is out to make money, despite the tall claims. No one is going to educate people about the importance of watching a rare behaviour than just running your jeep all over the forest in search of a tiger. In Parambikulam, I was photographing a Gaur calf suclking milk from its mother. The road there is very narrow. A forest department tourist vehicle came and asked me to give it space. They were not too excited with the sight of a Gaur nursing its calf. I had to move ahead about 30 feet so that the vehicle can overtake. It is the failure to teach people, to explain the behaviour and interpret the sights and sounds in nature. Unfortunately, all the talk of ecotourism means nothing, as they are only money spinning machines. If we educate people, then this feeling of disappointment can be tackled. So I agree with your statement that

    "Where there is awareness, there is Hope"

    Usha has pointed out about Corruption. Unfortunately it has afflicted our society - though some may argue that not as badly as in the South East Asian countries. So how can the forest department officials be left behind?

    I am not trying to justify, but have we looked at the salary levels of the people in the forest department? How do you expect the forest guard who is ill paid to stand up to the influential local people? In most of the sanctuaries, the posts lie vacant. The average age of people much higher. Most of them are demotivated and are just waiting for their retirement. You have to understand that people need jobs and the forest service is just a job.

    Most of the times you find the forest ranger in the city. You don't get schooling facilities in the small towns, so the family of the forest officials stay in the towns away from him.The forest service has to be made attractive and only motivated people should be recruited. Corruption has to eradicated.

    If you try to look at the forest policies, visions, action plans, you will get a nice first impression. However, most of those are just grandiose statements. Implementation is a far cry.

    I agree with your point about spreading awareness among kids and younger generation. We have to Catch them Young. Perhaps we can include it in their curriculum. Regular presentations in the schools and colleges will help as well.

  11. #11
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    Recently I accompanied one of my friend to a school . He keeps on visiting schools and educating kids about Indian forests and their importance. After the whole presentations there was a Q & A session. I was amazed to see kids ask doubts which were really worth asking. Some of the questions were " How can u count all the tigers in the forest" , " Approximately how much area one tiger requires " etc. Such questions coming from 8 -12 yr old proved that they were thinking and were taking interest. Educating kids and nurturing their interest is the best thing that can be done.
    One kid came up to me with a query to which i had no answer . Her question was " If we can understand the importance of tigers and forests the elders surely do, so y don't they they leave forests and animals alone? "

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    Default Save Wildlife

    picture says all story............save wildlife............
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    Last edited by Mohan Matang; 01-04-2011 at 12:58 PM.

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