Development projects threaten elephant corridors in Western Ghats

09:12 AM Jul 07, 2024 | Team Udayavani |

Uppinangady: The expansion of National Highway 75 and hydroelectric projects are compromising the elephant corridor, forcing wild elephants to venture into human habitations. There have been increasing elephant conflicts over the past two years, attributed to these development projects.


Last year, elephant attacks resulted in the deaths of two people in Nelyadi and one in Shiradi. Farmers in the Western Ghats region are also suffering from frequent elephant incursions.

Destruction of the Elephant Corridor

The major highway connecting Mangaluru and Bengaluru (NH-75) is being expanded to four lanes from BC Road to Gundya, and by hydroelectric projects. Environmental groups claim these projects are disrupting the natural elephant migratory paths.

Concrete barriers have been erected in over 15 places, including near Kodiyakkallu in Shiradi and Pararotti near Udane, blocking elephant movement. Elephants are unable to cross these barriers, leading them to wander unpredictably.


Obstruction from Hydroelectric Projects

Near the national highway, the Gundya and Kempuhole rivers flow perennially. Elephants usually cross these rivers along the Shiradi Ghats. However, hydroelectric projects have disrupted their paths.

Dams built for hydroelectric projects create a barrier for elephants, as the accumulated water and human infrastructure hinder their migration, forcing them to move toward human settlements, say environmental groups.

At Periyashanti’s Mannagundi and Udane, where the highway crosses streams, elevated elephant corridors have been constructed. However, it will take many years for elephants to start using these corridors as they do not easily accept alternative routes, preferring their usual paths.

Experts suggest that digging trenches in forest border areas of Belthangady taluk (Avanalu, Didupe, Mitrabagilu, Bandadi, Neriya, Charmadi, Puduvettu, Kayartadka, Arasinamakki, Shishila, Shibaje) and Kadaba taluk (Kollamogaru, Aranthodu, Sampaje, Aletti) can prevent human-wildlife conflicts.

Kishore Shiradi, coordinator of Malenadu Janahita Rakshana Vedike, mentions that issuing simultaneous tenders for digging trenches across 200 km of Western Ghats forest areas in Sullia, Kadaba, and Belthangady taluks would benefit both animal protection and farmers.

Artificial Elephant Corridors

Due to the destruction of natural elephant corridors, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has constructed artificial corridors in three or four places. However, elephants and other wildlife are not using these paths.

“Senior officials have been informed about the elephant corridors. Additionally, an underpass has been constructed near streams crossing NH-75 in forest areas. Contractors were instructed to build a culvert (a slightly larger structure than an underpass) near Udane. However, the contractors stated that the work has been completed and further construction is not feasible. Another underpass has been proposed near Mannagundi, but contractors have not yet started the work. We need to wait and see in the coming days,” said  Jayaprakash K.K., Divisional Forest Officer.


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