Nepal needs wildlife-friendly highways
OOn January 2, news of an adult tigress struck by a vehicle on Mahendra Highway made the rounds on social media. The photo of the big striped cat lying on the asphalt in a pool of blood touched many.
But there was also anger. The road death followed the murder by another tiger of a middle-aged woman riding a motorcycle with her son on the same stretch of highway.
In December 2016, a high-speed bus killed another tiger, and another in January 2019 left a seriously injured tiger, the animal’s condition did not improve despite treatment and he died 13 months later.
These heartbreaking examples of road deaths and human-animal conflict are on the rise in Nepal, thanks to new infrastructure including roads, irrigation canals, transmission lines and even railways that crisscross nature reserves. and national parks.
The planned modernization of the existing two-lane standard road along the Pathlaiya-Hetauda, Hetauda-Narayanghat and Narayanghat-Butwal sections of the Mahendra Road, which will all pass through protected areas, including Parsa National Park, the Corridor of Barandabhar and the buffer zone of Chitwan National Park.
The phenomenon even has an acronym, “Vehicular Wildlife Collisions” (VWC), and these will only increase. Among the unnatural deaths of wildlife in Nepal over the past four years, road deaths accounted for almost half of all fatalities. At least 29 deer, 24 wild boars and 22 monkeys have been identified as killed on the road just in 2019.
And despite reduced vehicle throughput during the Covid-19 lockdown, there were 108 wildlife deaths in 2020 on highways that crisscross natural habitat and jungle corridors, and these don’t. do not include deaths outside parks, meaning many other deaths beyond protected areas go unrecorded.