Environment ministry approves new guidelines for faster clearance through wildlife areas
The first project where these guidelines are most likely to be referred would be Kandi Road in Uttarakhand that aims to connect Garhwal and Kumaon region by minimising the distance to 90 km from 162 km and travel time by at least two hours.india Updated: Jul 02, 2017 10:13 IST
To speed up approvals of linear projects in wildlife areas, the environment ministry has approved “eco-friendly” guidelines framed by Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII) that entails safeguards for animals and birds.
Official sources said that the ministry agreed to the document prepared in consultation with National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and it would be a template for project proponents and national board for wildlife that examines projects in over 660 wildlife areas in India.
“The objective of the document is to help faster clearance and rigorous compliance’ of the road, railway and power transmission proposals for balancing biodiversity and developmental planning in wildlife habitat,” an official said.
The first project where these guidelines are most likely to be referred would be Kandi Road in Uttarakhand that aims to connect Garhwal and Kumaon region by minimising the distance to 90 km from 162 km and travel time by at least two hours.
“The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) has already been asked to prepare Detailed Project Report by the union minister of roads and surface transport, Nitin Gadkari,” Harak Singh Rawat forest minister Uttarakhand said.
India offers a second largest network of roads after USA --- 5.2 million kms of roads as compared to 6 million km in US.
Railways have a network of over 64,000 km in the country among the widest in the world. Indian Railway operates 12,000 passenger trains and 7000 freight trains. Nearly 2.8 million ton of freight traffic and 30 million passengers avail track service.
The country ranks fifth after USA, China, Japan and Russia for ‘having installed power generation capacity of 271 GW. The transmission circuit expanded from 52,034 circuit kilometers (ckm) during 6th plan to 2, 21, 549 ckm during 11th plan.
IMPACT OF LINEAR INFRASTRUCTURE
The report says, ‘the degree of impact is likely to be proportional to the width and length of the disturbance corridor’ with degradation highest in close proximity of the highway.
The impact of heavy metals like lead from motor vehicles and other chemical elements generated from fuel and corrosion is also noticed with rail network polluting soil, water and air and posing noise pollution.
This, the report says, can cause non-induced physiological and behavioural changes. For instance, headlight glare and artificial light can temporarily blind an animal, quotes the report.
As per Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) report of 2013, over 200 elephants died after getting hit by a train in two and a half decade.
The report has presented multiple mitigation measures including construction of overpass --- an eco duct or wildlife bridge passing above roads and railways for wildlife movement --- canopy bridges and glider poles.
The report also has suggested bridge or viaduct for the movement of vehicles allowing clear ground passage for animals or box culverts --- Square or box like passages constructed below linear structure allowing safe passage to wild animals.
For small animals and birds, pipe culverts for their passage away from roads and railways and water streams to preserve fishes by constructing a bridge for movement of vehicles.
In addition, the WII has also recommended non-structural like enhancing tree cover along linear infrastructure to reduce noise levels.
VB Mathur, director Wildlife Institute of India, said: “The document is prepared after thorough research and analysis by our scientists. It would help the government in understanding impacts and design linear infrastructure so as to balance development and conservation.”
Debabrata Swain, additional director general (ADG) National Tiger Conservation Authority, said; “We have already started using the document in two of the road projects in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. Now we have a clear vision of how we could proceed with roads and railways projects in wildlife dominant regions.”