70% drivers insensitive to wildlife, says study
More than 70 per cent of the drivers who travel on National Highway 37 that passes through Kaziranga National Park violate speed regulations and are insensitive to wildlife movement, a study has found.
The study, Ecological effects of road through sensitive habitats: Implications for wildlife conservation, undertaken by a research fellow at the Wildlife Institute of India, A. Pragatheesh, last year, assesses the ecological effects of the NH 37 stretch, passing through Kaziranga National Park, on wildlife and evaluates the efficacy of the existing speed regulations on the highway.
The study found that the visibility and size of signboards did not have any correlation with drivers decreasing the speed of their vehicles in response to wildlife movement.
“Seventy per cent of the drivers said they wanted to drive as fast as possible to deliver the goods early and they were not aware about animals crossing the road. Most of them had not seen any animal being hit while travelling on the road,” the study says.
The complete report is being finalised.
To assess the ecological impact of the road on wildlife, Pragatheesh studied the existing wildlife corridors by using the pugmark impression method, collected data on animals hit on the road on the basis of a 60-day observation made between March and June 2011 and monitored the speed of vehicles on select road sections to evaluate the efficacy of speed regulation measures like rumble strip, humps and steel barricades.
The maximum herbivores were found in Kanchanjuri and Haldibari corridors. The number of small carnivores was high in Ghurakati and Panbari corridors, which are located along habitations. Large carnivores were found to frequent Haldibari corridor. As the Haldibari corridor connects Kaziranga and Karbi Anglong hills, a large number of wildlife is found here.
The highest number of road hits was recorded for reptiles (69 per cent), followed by birds (23 per cent) and mammals (8 per cent). The effectiveness of hump, rumble strip and barriers varied in controlling the speed of different vehicles.
High traffic volume was found to pose a major threat to movement of wild animals between Kaziranga National Park and Karbi Anglong hills during floods.
The study found effective measures were needed to improve the functioning of the existing corridors.
“The study results will provide good inputs to solve the high traffic volume along Kaziranga,” a park official said.
Barricades have been put up at 11 points along the 43km stretch of NH 37 passing through Kaziranga. Park rules state that blowing of horn and driving above the speed limit of 40km/hour is prohibited.
As the drivers are mainly from the Hindi-speaking belt and speak Hindi, more signboards have now been put up in the language, the official said.
The Standing Committee of National Board for Wildlife has decided that draft guidelines with respect to laying of transmission lines and construction of roads in protected areas will be framed soon.
It has also decided to take up with the National Highways Authority of India the matter of non-compliance with forest clearance norms while constructing the four-lane expressway, which would pass through the elephant and tiger corridors in the Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong area.