Wildlife Institute issues report of 9 animal underpasses constructed with investment of Rs. 225 Cr. Animal Underpasses are built in NH44, Pench Tiger Reserve.
The longest national highway in India, NH7 passes through Pench Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra. It has mostly been in the news for all bad reasons. It has reported a lot of deaths of wild animals. But now new paths have been developed to help them avoid vehicle encounters.
More than 5450 wild animals have been spotted using 6 underpasses which included 11 tigers, according to a Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun report. This highway underpass is the first animal crossing structure in India which was built around December 2019. Some of the first species spotted using the structures are spotted deer, tigers, wild boars, jungle cat and hare.
Bilal Habib, a tiger scientist who recommended mitigation measures, has added, “These structures are playing a vital role to improve the permeability of landscapes. These measures would definitely defragment the congested landscapes.”
How it all started?
The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) issued a contract of Rs. 1170 Crore to build a 117-km long 4-lane highway from Seoni to Nagpur. Considering the court case and protest of animal activists threatening to stop the project, the NHAI added extra cost in the contract in 2015 to build the bridges and underpasses. The cost of the project raised to Rs. 240 Cr. NHAI also built the guide walls to protect the animals as well as up to 750m wide 9 underpasses at several places.
There are several other underpasses in the pipeline in India. There are two minor bridges and two elephant passes in progress in Lumding, Assam on NH54. In addition, 3 elephant underpasses will also be built with vertical clearance of 6 meters in NH72 and NH58 from Haridwar to Dehradun.
Total 18 species found using underpasses – WWI Report
According to the camera trap survey conducted from March to December 2019, the report states that a total of 18 species of wild animals were found using such underpasses, excluding grey langur and rhesus macaque. Along with tigers and leopards, the wild boars, spotted tigers and wild dogs were also the animals spotted using these underpasses most frequently. Other animals which were using these underpasses were mongoose, wild cat, small Indian civet, common palm civet, rusty spotted cat, Indian hare and porcupine.
A total of 89 crossings have been recorded by tigers under the structures till December 31, 2019. There were 11 tigers that used the underpass regularly. This 16.1 km long stretch intersects Pench-Navegaon-Nagzira tiger corridor and passes through forests of Pench Tiger Reserve. In addition, 9 wildlife mitigation structures were built as discussed in the joint report by WII-NTCA in May 2015.
Billal saeed, “The initial results with monitoring on NH7 are really promising. We spotted 5381 animals of 18 species passing through these underpasses like wild boars, dholes, tigers, and wild cats.”
Overall, this is a great concept to save both wildlife and human lives. This type of bridge should be built over most of the national parks. It can help easy and safe passage of both people and wildlife without any encounters. This wildlife passage has been built as a great step towards wildlife conservation. There are so many national parks in India like Bandhavgarh, Kanha, Ranthambore etc. which need this type of initiative.