Widening of National Highway 2016 between Chitradurga and Honnavar will tear into the pristine stretches of the Western Ghats near Gerusoppa and Honnavar, home to rare and endangered wildlife. The long-pending widening of NH 160-A between Agumbe and Someshwara will knife through biodiversity-rich patches where rare amphibians are found. Widening of Shikaripura-Theerthahalli road is also on cards. In the third and concluding part of the series, we look at how three road projects will bring destruction to the fragile Ghats.
AGUMBE: A drive on a rainy morning between Shivamogga and Sagar (in Shivamogga district) makes you wonder if this road, with such thin traffic, needs to be converted into an eight-lane highway. But the plans say so.
The work is part of the widening of National Highway 206 between Chitradurga and Honnavar, and it will have a great impact on Western Ghats in Shivamogga. The work on NH 206 will also tear into the pristine stretches of Ghats further down, near Gerusoppa and Honnavar, home to many rare and endangered animals including the King Cobra.
Gerusoppa forests have one of the largest groups of lion-tailed macaques in the wild. These primates are considered ‘critically endangered’ and they are mostly canopy dwellers. The road-widening threatens to fragment their habitat since the primates cannot jump over the wider road. The increase in the number of electrical wires has already resulted in deaths of macaques, by electrocution.
The wider highway will also graze the Sharavathi Valley. “The Valley has one of the tallest cascades of India, Jog Falls. British officers who found the waterfall had left a note in the diary at the British bungalow stating that the Sharavathi Valley must not be opened for development. But, what happened later? Dams after dams were built across the river and the rainfall came down drastically,” says noted writer and author of books on Jog Falls, Na D’Souza from Sagar. “Why is Karnataka hell-bent on destroying its forests?” he asks.
READ Part II here: The promise of a realty boom could cost Karnataka a river
There are more damaging roads to be cut through Shimogga district. If the widening in Gerusoppa road may spell doom for primates, the long-pending widening of NH169A between Agumbe and Someshwara will knife through biodiversity-rich patches of the Ghats where rare amphibians are found. In and around Agumbe, about 23 species of amphibians, endemic to the Western Ghats, are found. Among these 23, there are two critically endangered, three endangered and 18 rare species including the two caecilians.
A wildlife activist in Agumbe says that the existing road is sufficient for the traffic it sees. “Cars, jeeps and mini buses run on the Agumbe Ghat without any trouble. The Ghat has 11 hairpin bends and inexperienced drivers cause traffic jams. This does not mean that you turn it into an eight-laner, pushing into sensitive ecological stretches. Instead, the road can be strengthened and the government can appoint people to clear traffic snarls”.
Besides, forests in Shivamogga are interconnected with those that stretch into Udupi and Chikkamagaluru, he adds.“Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary, Someshwara Wildlife Sanctuary and Kukke Subramanya forests are connected. There are alternative routes to reach Honnavar, and wider roads will only bring more traffic into the forests,” he says.
In the Pipeline
1 Honnavar-B’luru Highway (NH-206)
The road connects coastal town Honnavar to Shivamogga and Bengaluru via evergreen forests and Sharavati River Valley of Western Ghats.
The road goes via Honnavar, Jog Falls, Talaguppa, Sagar and Shivamogga. The whole stretch falls under Western Ghats and it is a two-lane road in a thickly forested area.
2 Shikaripura to Thirthahalli
Road is planned to be made a four-laner
It cuts through Shivamogga and Sagar Road
Thick jungles will be removed for this
3 Agumbe to Someshwara
Demand for completion of the long-pending road-widening project
One of the most picturesque Ghat roads of state with 11 hairpin bends
Has a famous sunset point on top of the Ghat, which attracts large numbers of tourists
Wider roads will increase traffic, harmful to a fragile ecology