Create green set up to reduce man-animal conflict

Dehra Dun : Experts from different parts of the globe who met here to take stock of the elephant problem being faced in the outskirts of the state headquarters of Uttarakhand, were unanimous in their view that focus should be not on creating infrastructure alone, but green infrastructure, which will greatly reduce the main-animal conflict.

Speakers at the seminar felt that as population grows and in some countries at an explosive rate, there is bound to be pressure on the forests as governments fell them to provide the necessary infrastructure. New roads have to be made, railway lines laid, power lines spread to more and more areas and even irrigation projects, including dams need to come up cater to the burgeoning needs.

And while all this is being done the need for humans is taken into consideration, while that of the wildlife is relegated. Corridors of movements of the wildlife from one forest range to another are removed, area of movement limited and human interference in the forests increases, thereby increasing the man-animal conflict. Green infrastructure needs to be created in the parks and corridors to minimize the impact of development on wildlife, experts opined.

To press home their point they felt that rather than felling a large number of trees to lay a road in the middle of a national park, it would be better passing the road as an over bridge, which would have minimal interference in the movement of the wildlife. In some of the countries, like the USA and Norway eco-sensitive highways are now being constructed with the wildlife in mind.

The example of the elephants in the Rajai and Motichur sanctuaries in the outskirts of Dehra Dun was cited as an example. With road and rail traffic having increased considerably over the years, the highways and railway lines passing through these sanctuaries have continuous flow of traffic and the blaring horns and noise of the vehicles, including trains disturb the animals which affects their behaviour.

Asserting that enough damage had been done, the need of the hour was to give deep though to developing green infrastructure in the wildlife areas of Uttarakhand, specially the known eight corridors that were used by animals for movement from one forest range to another. Creating green infrastructure even now could reduce the man-animal conflict to a great extent in the state, they felt.

Meanwhile, sources in the wildlife department said that bears had become a bigger menace than panthers in the higher reaches of the state, though the saving grace was that not all attacks by bears were fatal. A reason for this was that with foeests denuding and rivers and streams drying up, food availability of bears in their natural environs had reduced considerably because of which they were turning to villages and attacking people, they claimed.

A journalist with over 40 years of experience, Jagdish Bhatt is Editor Hill Post (Uttarakhand). Jagdish has worked with India's leading English dailies, which include Times of India, Indian Express, Pioneer and several other reputed publications. A highly acclaimed journalist, Jagdish is a recipient of many awards, latest being the 2011 Development Journalism Award. He lives in Dehra Dun.

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