Eco-bridges or Eco-ducts for Sustainable development

PMF IAS Environment

What are Eco-bridges or Eco-ducts?

  • Eco-bridges aim to enhance wildlife connectivity, that can be disrupted because of highways or logging.
  • Eco-bridges include
  1. canopy bridges (usually for monkeys, squirrels & other arboreal species);
  2. concrete underpasses or overpass tunnels or viaducts (usually for larger animals); &
  3. amphibian tunnels or culverts.
  • Usually, these bridges are overlaid with planting to give it a contiguous look with the landscape.

Environment vs. Development

  • In most of the cases, it is not possible to complete development projects without harming the environment.
  • The scenario is grave in India as it does not have enough resources to balance environment & development.
  • Projects must be completed either with high environmental costs or high financial costs.
  • With a complex web of legal processes (SC, NGT) & regulatory regimes (NTCA, National Board for Wildlife, etc), the development projects are stalled midway & the project costs skyrocket over the years.

Case 1

Case 2

  • NHAI’s project to widen NH 44 through Pench Tiger Reserve is mired in legal hurdles.
  • The NH 44 stretch passes through the eco-sensitive zone of Pench Tiger Reserve (PTR) on both Maharashtra & Madhya Pradesh sides.
  • In 2008, Wildlife Trust of India (NGO) had moved SC seeking a ban on NHAI’s project.
  • NHAI’s project would involve felling more than 22,000 trees in the critical corridor.
  • According to NTCA & Wildlife Institute of India (WII), the forest connecting Kanha & Pench TRs is one of the four most viable tiger habitats (the other three being the Western Ghats, Corbett & Kaziranga).
  • NHAI made several changes in the plan to address the concerns raised by wildlife experts.
  • GOI is now spending a whooping ₹1300 crore to build 9 km of highway with 13 underpasses in Pench TR.
  • Demands have been raised to build such underpasses on the NH between Mysuru & Wayanad to protect tigers in the Bandipur wildlife sanctuary.

The Effect on the tiger population

  • Central India’s tigers have the highest genetic variation among Indian tigers.
  • This has been made possible by the large habitats available here in the past.
  • When populations are isolated by linear projects, there’s the risk of inbreeding of disease & local extinction.

Eco-bridges for Sustainable development (balancing development and environment)

  • Nine ‘animal underpasses (viaducts)’ were built in 2018 beneath a stretch of NH 44 (Srinagar to Kanyakumari — India’s longest highway) between Kanha & Pench tiger reserves.
  • GOI will construct a 36 km-long flyover above NH 37, which passes through the Kaziranga National Park.
  • These viaducts prevent roadkill & reduce the ‘barrier effect’ that roads have on the movement of animals.
  • These underpasses are examples of ‘wildlife mitigation measures’ or attempts to remedy the impact of infrastructure on wild animals (attempting for sustainable development).
  • According to an estimate, around 55,000 km of roads pass through India’s forests & protected areas.
  • NH 44 cuts through corridors connecting Kanha, Satpura, Pench, Bandhavgarh, Panna tiger reserves.
  • NH 6 — India’s second longest highway that runs from Surat to Kolkata — passes through corridors around Melghat, Bor, Nagzira, Simlipal tiger reserves.

Tiger Reserves Map: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1kA-_Rn32zbn8XvhGo9rA7u3JGMA_buYp/view

Prelims Practise

Consider the following statements

  1. NH 44 passes through Pench Tiger Reserve.
  2. Kashmir-Kanyakumari highway passes through Pench Tiger Reserve.
  3. Pench Tiger reserve is spread across the borders of Maharashtra & Madhya Pradesh.
Which of the above statement(s) are false?
  1. 2 only
  2. 2 & 3 only
  3. 3 only
  4. None
Explanation
  • All the statements are true.
  • NH 44 (3700+ km) also known as Kashmir-Kanyakumari highway, is the longest highway in India.
Answer: None

Consider the following

  1. Wildlife Institute of India
  2. National Tiger Conservation Authority
  3. National Board for Wildlife
  4. Wildlife Crime Control Bureau
  5. Central Zoo Authority
Which of the above are statutory bodies?
  1. All
  2. 1, 2, 3 & 4 only
  3. 2, 3 & 4 only
  4. 2, 3, 4 & 5 only
Explanation
  • A statutory body is a non-constitutional body established by the legislature (established by a law).
  • Wildlife Institute of India (WII) is an autonomous institute under MoEF.
Answer: 2, 3, 4 & 5 only (d)

Consider the following

  1. Wildlife Trust of India
  2. Wildlife Institute of India (WII)
  3. The Energy & Resources Institute (TERI)
Which of the above are NGOs?
  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 1 and 3 only
  4. 3 only
Explanation
Answer: one and three only (c)

Summary

  • Eco-bridges aim to enhance wildlife connectivity, that can be disrupted because of highways or logging.
  • They include canopy bridges, underpasses or overpasses or viaducts & amphibian tunnels or culverts.
  • In 2008, Wildlife Trust of India (NGO) had moved SC seeking a ban on the widening of NH44.
  • The NH 44 stretch passes through the eco-sensitive zone of Pench Tiger Reserve.
  • NH 44 cuts through corridors connecting Kanha, Satpura, Pench, Bandhavgarh, Panna tiger reserves.
  • The forest connecting Kanha & Pench TRs is one of the four most viable tiger habitats (the other three being the Western Ghats, Corbett & Kaziranga).
  • GOI is now spending a whooping ₹1300 crore to build 9 km of highway with 13 viaducts in Pench TR.
  • These viaducts prevent roadkill & reduce the ‘barrier effect’ that roads have on the movement of animals.
  • These underpasses are examples of wildlife mitigation measures.
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