Much ado about a highway.
T. Balachandra, Conservator of Forests and Field Director, Project Tiger, Bandipur, is a worried man. Close on the heels of a massive protest in neighbouring Kerala, over the rumoured closure of the highway that connects it with Karnataka through the Bandipur Tiger Reserve, he had to oversee the capture of a tiger that had strayed into a village in the Gopalaswamy Betta range of the Bandipur reserve and killed a dozen cattle and two men, causing panic all around.
He does not see both these cases as mutually exclusive. “A highway through the park is a linear intrusion and a huge stressor for the animals. There are ecological impacts to it. It’s not just about roadkills,” he says, adding that human-animal conflict was on the rise in the villages on the peripheries of the reserve. “The department has paid Rs 1.5 crore (Rs. 15 million) as compensation for the crop damaged by the animals apart from the ex-gratia paid for deaths from the conflict,” he added.
A highway that runs through a tiger reserve divides India. Students want to keep the road because it shortens their travel time and conservationists want to have an alternative road, backed up by a court verdict.
Let’s hope there will be a solution soon.