A proposed road in Barwaha, Khargone district is threatening the tiger habitat of the region, and forest officials and wildlife enthusiasts are opposed to the road, which they claim is being constructed due to political pressure.
It is only recently, after a gap of 10-years that Madhya Pradesh has regained the title of Tiger State, and such moves will put its status in danger, say officials.
“The proposed road is between village Chainpura to village Gawlanpati and the population of both the villages is minimal and as such, the road construction will cost us much more in terms of forest and wildlife than benefit anyone ever!” divisional forest officer (DFO) Barwaha CS Chouhan said. He explained that the road was initially proposed about 2 years back, but the construction was not started citing the presence of tigers, leopards, chinkara, flying squirrel, nilgai and other wildlife.
“This is a forest reserve area and we have a rich thick forest area, which gives perfect condition for tiger habitat and as per information, tigers are spotted in the area,” Chouhan said. He added that as per the last census over 16 leopards were also recorded in the area.
“Often tigers are difficult to capture on the camera, but there have been previous sightings which had led to the stopping of the road construction,” Chouhan said.
He added that the forest belt of Indore, Dewas, Barwaha, Choral and Udainagar is very dense and rich with herbivore population, besides, there is plenty of water resources. All these are ideal habitats for tigers.
Tiger presence since ancient times
Previously, Wild Life Institute of India, Dehradun had indicated about the presence of seven tigers in this area in their survey. Not just this, as cited in Pascoe, 1959, the area has been a host for tigers since ancient times. “The Bagh beds stretch from Rajpipla about 35 miles ( 56 km.) west of Gulf of Cambay in Gujarat eastwards as far as Barwaha, about 240 miles ( 386 km.) from the coast of Gulf.”
Road not necessary & not going to help anyone!
Hence, tigers which have always been living in Barwaha's dense forest, now face a threat as the road construction resumes. “The road is not necessary and not even helpful, but is being done under political pressure,” forest ranger Barwaha Kailash Purohit said.
While clearly there is no need for a road in the area, the road is being permitted indicating personal gain to vested interests. “Recently, the road construction agency was fined Rs 50,000 for the delay in construction, but as we understand it, there is no movement of people here and no need for road construction. It is unclear why we need the road in such a dense forest,” Purohit said.
Hunting & extinction of wildlife on the card
The possible construction of the road connecting the villages will mean an end to tiger habitat and further, possible extinction of all the wildlife due to hunting and poaching. “Being a dense forest area with barely any human life, the proposed road will lead to human-animal conflict, hunting and poaching and we are bound to lose all the wildlife here eventually,” Chouhan said.
Politics & corruption to cost Tiger lives?
The road is being constructed on the garb of giving convenience to villagers, but there are no more than 10 families each in these two villages and they have alternative routes to reach Indore, Udainagar and Barwaha.
“On one end, we have Dewas route and on another we have connection from Khandwa route to Indore, so it is not really an issue for villagers,” Chouhan said.
A much richer wildlife with tigers will be lost, save them!
“Tigers have been present in the area for decades now and we have received information about the same from villagers and even witnessed tiger kills in the area,” wildlife activist Rohitashwa Pandey said. He added that the presence of tigers indicates a rich wildlife diversity, which is being ignored by a few forest officials for personal gains.
“A single tiger needs at least 15 to 25 kilograms of meat in a day, hence, the area is loaded with other wildlife animals in abundance as well,” Pandey said. He added that due to his objection and research survey showing tiger pugmarks in the area, the road construction came to a halt 2 years back.
“Again allowing the road to be constructed can cost us a rich and dense wildlife, which we will never recover,” Pandey said.