Highway 4-laning cuts tiger corridor
18 Jan 2009, 0355 hrs IST, Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN
NAGPUR: Even as conservationists are seething over the threat to the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve emanating from the Adani power project, comes the news that even the Nagzira-Navegaon region is in imminent danger. The four-laning of the 80km road between Sirpur (Chattisgarh) and Lakhni (Maharashtra), which has resulted in large-scale and indiscriminate felling of trees, is threatening to block a safe corridor used by wild animals to move to Kanha (MP) and Indravati (Chattisgarh).
There are around 10 tigers in Nagzira and 15-20 leopards in Navegoan apart from bears, cheetals and sambars. There have been many instances of animals being run over on the highway even when it was a narrow two-lane road. After the widening, vehicles are expected to go at speeds of more than 100kmph.
Work on the Rs 424 crore NHAI road widening project on NH6 is in full swing, except in the forest area where clearance is awaited from the ministry of environment and forests for claiming 85 hectares of land. The work is being implemented by Ashoka Buildcon Limited, Nashik, by setting up Ashoka Highway (Bhandara) Limited, a special purpose vehicle (SPV).
The work started in March 15 last year and is expected to be completed by 2010. Conservationists claim that thousands of big trees have been cut along both sides of the highway without the requisite clearances.
A Wildlife Trust of India study conducted over the past five years reveals that the four-laning is detrimental to the tiger corridor. WTI chairman Ranjit Singh had recently visited the corridor project and pushed for its implementation with top forest officials. More importantly, Navegaon-Nagzira has been proposed as critical tiger habitats (CTHs) and road widening will threaten the future of these protected areas (PAs).
"The highway passes through a west-east 30km tiger corridor in Kohmara-Deori section," said conservationist Prafull Bhamburkar. "The four-laning in reserve forest compartment numbers 555/558 near Sasakuran hills and temple is hardly a kilometre from the Navegaon National Park boundary. A total of 10 compartments will be hit by the highway expansion project."