BELAGAVI: Wildlife activists have appealed to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) for immediate intervention regarding the proposed National Highway Widening Project in Goa on the Karnataka border which is part of the Western Ghats Tiger Landscape.
The Public Works Department (PWD) in Goa has submitted a proposal for use of 32.085 hectares of land for the four-laning of the existing National Highway-4A in the Anmod–Mollem section located on the Karnataka-Goa border. NH4A starts from Belagavi in Karnataka and ends at Panaji in North Goa district. The highway is 153 km long, of which 84 km is in Karnataka and 69 km is in Goa.
Speaking to The New Indian Express, wildlife activist Giridhar Kulkarni said the proposal submitted by Goa for four-laning of the existing NH-4A passes through Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary/Mollem National Park. The user agency had submitted a proposal requesting Wildlife Clearance from the Standing Committee of the NBWL. The proposal has been already recommended by the Standing Committee in its 57th meeting held on April 7, 2020, he said.
Kulkarni said the forest areas in and around the proposed highway alignment are home to wildlife species like tiger, leopard, gaur, dhole, great Indian hornbill besides many other endangered/endemic species. He said that it is part of the larger tiger landscape/corridor of the states of Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka identified by the NTCA/Wildlife Institute of India. Hence, he said the focus should be on protecting these last remaining tiger corridors in the world which are under great threat especially due to linear infrastructure projects.
Kulkarni said the wildlife habitats and forest areas in and around the proposed alignment have been already fragmented by various projects like the existing National Highway, Hospet-Tinaighat-Vasco railway line and more. Major impacts of linear intrusions like highways in forest and wildlife areas include wildlife deaths due to vehicular collisions, habitat loss and degradation and more. Besides this, the proposed project will also result in large scale tree felling, he added.
Kulkarni stated that NHAI has already decided not to widen the section of the same highway within Dandeli Sanctuary limits in the state of Karnataka. Hence, it would be appropriate for the PWD in Goa to drop the proposal of widening the same highway within protected area limits of Goa as well in the interest of wildlife conservation, Kulkarni concluded.