Wildlife road accidents are a subject of serious concern in Nepal. The highways passing through the national parks and forests act as a death trap for numerous wild animals. In the year 2018/2019 alone, at least 119 wildlife were killed in different road accidents all over the country. Furthermore, these animal-vehicle collisions not only result in animal casualty but also take a toll on human life.
Most of the human development comes at the cost of nature degradation. The growing highway connections, upgraded roads, and rampant forest fragmentation cut off animals from their natural habitat and resources. Thus, these poor animals are bound to risk their life. Crossing the roads becomes a gamble of life and death and many become victims of unfortunate fate.
To mitigate this problem, however, one green solution has emerged as a success story: Wildlife Crossings. These modern crossings for animal have been practised globally and seem to work well.
Wildlife crossings, aka green crossings, are the structures that help animals to cross man-made barriers. They mimic the natural landscape around them and invite animals to pass the road without human interactions. These crossings can be the form of bridges, tunnels, fish ladders, amphibian underpasses, and roofs etc.
The concept of green crossings was pioneered in France during the 1950s. However, over the past few decades, countries like America, Canada, and the Netherlands have adopted the model as well with the growing concern around biodiversity conservation. In recent years, Nepal also added its name on the list.
Nepal’s Green Underpasses Success
To test the effectiveness of wildlife crossings in Nepal, the Department of Roads (DoR) constructed 4 wildlife crossing underpasses in Barandabhar Corridor Forest (BCF) area of the Narayanghad-Mugling road. These underpasses have, indeed, shown to be highly useful in promoting safe animal movement.
According to a study by WWF (2019), many small and medium-sized animals use underpasses. Among the fifteen recorded species, thirteen species were comfortable on using the underpasses. Likewise, the animals were more likely to use the underpasses in winter due to the unavailability of resources.
After its success in Chitwan, DoR is now planning to construct more wildlife crossings (both over and underpasses) through major biodiversity hotspots of Nepal such as Banke, Bardia and Parsa National Park.
The green crossings are a perfect example of sustainable and futuristic construction. They show that with innovative ideas, human and nature can co-exist in harmony. Conservationists are hopeful that construction of more wildlife crossings will minimize the wildlife conflicts and economic loss caused due to road accidents each year.