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:
I look forward to your comments and your ideas on this topic.
- 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.