Desert Highway becomes Death Trap – Urgent Action Needed!

Raja Bandi
Raja Bandi

Chosen as 'Picture of the Week'

In landscapes like the Thar desert, the median design in four-lane sections should be provided with gaps at regular intervals to help reptiles and other small animals get across. A policy change at MORTH and NHAI level is required urgently to prevent more needless wildlife deaths.

This image was taken near Diyatra village, 59 km outside Bikaner en route to Phalodi, in May 2018. Other dogs around it appeared to be well-fed and resting under Prosopis trees and this single individual was feeding on leftovers.

This highway stretch between Bikaner – Phalodi had been recently converted to a four-lane highway (55 km) and 100 km of it was widened to an extra 10 feet. This possibly triggered a lot of wildlife road kills as well.  Stray dogs along the stretch of the highway started feeding on roadkills of cows, nilgai, chinkara, jackals and foxes. There is also an increase in their hunting in small packs. Areas around Darbari (edge of Gajner reserve) and Nokhda with high chinkara and blackbuck population are the hotspots for stray dog hunting.

Desert landscapes like these have a high concentration of spiny-tailed lizards, monitor lizards, hedgehogs, snakes and other reptiles. A 250-275 mm high median dividing the highway obstructs these reptiles crossing the road. Reaching up to the median and unable to climb over and cross the road, they panic and start running along the median, coming under the speeding vehicles. These road-kills then attract small mammals and scavengers like foxes and jackals onto the roads, bringing them under the vehicles and triggering more road-kills. This was observed on multiple occasions. In landscapes like the Thar desert, the median design in four-lane sections should be provided with gaps at regular intervals to help reptiles get across. A policy change at MORTH and NHAI level is required urgently.

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