Mumbai: The forest department will soon build seven passageways — underpass and overpass — on busy roads passing through wildlife corridors between Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) and Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary (TWS).
The plan, which is formulated to save animals from being knocked down by vehicles, comes five years after Wildlife biologist Vidya Athreya and the group ‘Mumbaiikars for SGNP’ highlighted the deaths of 16 leopards between 2006 and 2012. A recent report by Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) found that 10 leopards were killed along the same areas from 2008 to 2018.
Anwar Ahmed, chief conservator of forest, SGNP, said, “A decision has been made that two overpass and five underpasses will be constructed along the Western Express Highway (WEH) at areas between SGNP, Borivali to TWS.” Ahmed also added that the decision has been taken by principal chief conservator of forest (wildlife) after consulting wildlife experts. The animal passages have also been made part of 10-year TWS wildlife management plan 2018-2028.
One animal overpass has been planned near Shilottar village and an underpass near Nagla village, both of which will be built by the Railways. Two other underpasses have been planned on WEH, which connects National Highway 8 on the boundary of TWS and Thane territorial forest. Next underpass will come up near Chinchoti village further down the same highway. And the last overpass will be constructed one and a half kilometers away from Sativali village along NH8 between two hills.
Ahmed said all the upcoming projects around the park will only be approved with the condition to construct animal passageways. “There has already been much issue wherein we are losing on precious wildlife due to imbalance between development and environment.
But such incidents will now be controlled through these introductions,” Anwar stated, adding the authorities are also in talks with the traffic department over introducing speed control measures on highways. Vidya Athreya, wildlife biologist who had conducted the study five years ago, said while the initiative is welcome move, there is a dire need to introduce a passageway in the accident-prone area of Ghodbundar Road in Thane which breaks the park into two.
“Apart from aiding movement of wild beings, leopard accidents could potentially lead to increased conflict as it increases the chances of injured animals without mothers which could be further dangerous to humans,” Vidya added. The study, apart from vehicle speed control and introducing animal passageways, also called for regular waste collection and composting especially at the surrounding areas of the corridors.