By Seema Sharma
DEHRADUN: With new tigers, some of them man-eaters, being sighted everyday in west UP, the debate around tiger corridors has gained more immediacy than ever. Human encroachment in and around 13 corridors of Terai region - referred to as the Terai Arc Landscape -- is taking a heavy toll on the animal movement around this area. Among the corridors are the Rajaji National Park (RNP)-Corbett Tiger Reserve (CTR) corridor , Chilla-Motichur corridor, Gola corridor, Boar corridor, Kalagarh corridor, and the Kansrau-Barkot corridor. Corridors play a pivotal role in providing connectivity from one forest to another for the smooth movement of wild animals like elephants, tigers, leopards, bears and other endangered species. If the area is shrunk, as has been witnessed in last few years, then the existence of these animals become precarious.
Providing an example of how the corridors have been impacted, AK Singh, team leader of Terai Arc Landscape said, "A 1800-km stretch of the Yamuna corridor -- which is adjacent to the Dehradun Forest Division (FD), Narendranagar FD and the western portion of RNP -- is highly disturbed by boulder collection in the riverbed and is hindering animal movement."
Indiscriminate human activities have also not helped matters. "Wood cutting, grazing and extremely poor prey availability in the Barkote range of Kansrao-Badkot corridor is the reason that tiger movement is going down in this area. The proposed four-lane highway (Delhi-Hardiwar-Dehradun) will further worsen the situation," Harish Guleria of WWF, Dehradun unit, told TOI.
Forest connectivity in Chilla-Motichur corridor in RNP has been severely hampered due to the expansion of towns like Haridwar, Rishikesh and Raiwala village. In particular, say sources, the ammunition-dump of the Army, hydro-power canal, railway line and establishment of settlements on west bank of the Ganges have affected the natural habitat of many animals.
SP Subhudhi, director of RNP, says the situation warrants immediate action. "Over the years, the foothill forests in Kotdwar range and eastern part of Laldang range were lost to human settlements and agriculture expansions in Rajaji-Corbett corridor. As of now, tiger movement in this corridor is extremely low. We need urgent measures like creating awareness, eco-development and anti-poaching programs that can help in making the corridor suitable for tiger and other large mammals."
What is further alarming is that a number of endangered species are facing the prospect of extinction if the situation is not rectified soon. I P Bhopanna, senior program officer, WWF told TOI that due to excessive tourism and infrastructure, the Boar river corridor has already experienced local extinction of the rhino and swamp deer. There is a lot of pressure on the Gola river corridor in Kumaon as well. "Growth of Haldwani town and Lal Kuan industrial complex, heavy traffic along the Haldwani-Lal Kuan road and large-scale boulder mining involving hundreds of labourers along the Gola river during the months of October to June, has led to severe depletion of the Gola corridor," said Bivash Pandav, scientist at the Wildlife Institute of India.