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‘Protect wildlife ecology while greening highways’

Panaji: Ministry of environment and forests' (MoEF) project on greening of national highways has been appreciated for its stress on human safety and aesthetic aspects, but some in Goa also suggest priority to ecological aspects and wildlife protection.

The ministry in its vision document has announced the developing of green cover on 4 lakh acre land during the next ten years, seeking to sequester about 12 lakh MT carbon annually. While creating one lakh direct jobs in plantations and maintenance activities, the policy unveiled in 2015 will implement integrated green corridor development and management for new highways through plantation, transplantation, beautification, landscaping and maintenance.

Goa's highways are also being covered under this ambitious project including in wildlife sanctuaries on the state's eastern borders. Molem national park in the Sahyadri ranges, which is a contiguous corridor to wildlife in Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra is likely to lose large tracts of green land to road widening.

The regreening exercise appreciably factors in the human safety and aesthetic matters but should also consider other issues, say environmentalists. "Roads are linear intrusions that break landscapes and dilute their ecological value, rendering the large animals, domestic and wild in the contiguous landscape vulnerable to road kills," Manoj Borkar, a reputed ecologist said.

Activists rue the lack of authentic data on the number of wild species decimated on the country's road network. The green highways policy for plantation, maintenance and other aspects merely stresses on plantation species matrix and planning methodology for green corridors.

"The document highlights the eco-sociological benefits of such green roads, but it doesn't even make a passing reference to decimation potential of roads and measures to mitigate road kills of wildlife," Borkar said.

The environmental impacts have to be identified and quantified as well as damage prevention and mitigation strategies should be prioritized in the planning stage itself. Indiscriminate slaughter of trees could have been avoided with proper planning, environmentalists say.

"These are age-old and indigenous trees, and cannot be replaced overnight. The ministry knows transplanting can be done, but not much thought has been given to it," Avertino Miranda, coordinator of Goa Green Brigade said.

Activists from Goa and Miranda had interacted with former ministers, Alina Saldanha and Rajendra Arlekar regarding transplanting of trees. But the indiscriminate felling of trees continued.


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Source: ‘Protect wildlife ecology while greening highways’

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