The Uttarakhand government plans to erect fencing along the boundary of Corbett Tiger Reserve (CTR), through which the ambitious Kandi road will be built, to prevent animals, especially tigers, from crossing the border and getting killed by poachers.
The road aims to minimise travel time and distance between Garhwal and Kumaon regions.
“Fencing would block movement of animals, such as elephants and tigers. Our animals cross border and get killed. This effort would help in restricting them to our territory,” forest minister Harak Singh Rawat told Hindustan Times two days ago.
The CTR boundary adjoins Uttar Pradesh. The government’s apprehension stems from last year’s incident in which five tiger skins were seized from Najbabad border -- four tigers were once photographed in Corbett.
Harak Singh Rawat has asked chief secretary S Ramaswamy to speed up the legwork on the project. According to him, fencing will be done on a 10-km patch along Corbett where an elevated road will be built. Watch towers will also be constructed in this patch from where tourists could enjoy the view of Corbett.
But, this plan has not gone down well with wildlife enthusiasts who rue over blockage of corridors, which are already threatened because of encroachments and traffic.
“Already our corridors are strangulated. This effort of government will block another important corridor. If Uttarakhand tigers and elephants are going to UP, then the wild animals from there too are coming to our state,” said Dinesh Pandey, a Haldwani-based activist.
The Wildlife Institute of India (WII) has recently come up with a comprehensive publication, giving recommendations on how developmental projects of roads, railways and high-tension power grids could be set up in wildlife habitats. Nowhere does it mention to block the corridors -- long passages for wildlife -- through fencing.
“The recommendations give an overview of how we could maintain balance between development and conservation,” WII director VB Mathur said.
A study ‘Right of Passage-Elephant Corridors of India’ -- conducted by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and the Asian Nature Conservation Foundation (ANCF) in 2005 -- had listed 12 corridors in Uttarakhand that are marred by encroachments, traffic, agricultural practices and so on.
“Human-animal conflict is increasing due to shrinking corridors. Elephants and tigers have nowhere to go. That’s why they intrude into human settlements, damaging their property, agriculture and even life,” said AK Singh, team leader of Terai Arch landscape (TAL), World Wide Fund.
Corbett director Surendra Mehra said, “The fence cannot be done along the entire route as there are patches of forests as well. We can put fence near the area adjoining UP where there are villages.”
The Kandi road project was announced by chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat after the BJP came to power. The announcement that drew attention of locals aimed to reduce distance between Garhwal and Kumaon regions from 162km to 90km and travel time by at least two hours.