Mysuru-Bengaluru National Highway-275: Wildlife crossing project halted after 60 percent work
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Mysuru-Bengaluru National Highway-275: Wildlife crossing project halted after 60 percent work

May 17, 2024

The construction of an animal overpass and underpass to facilitate the safe crossing of wild animals over the Mysuru-Bengaluru Highway has come to a grinding halt. A portion of the work has been left incomplete after over 60 percent of the work, posing a significant threat to the wildlife in the region.

During the planning phase of the highway, the potential impact on wildlife was carefully considered, particularly in the forests between Bengaluru and Ramanagara, as well as the wildlife habitat near Srirangapatna, where a consistent movement of wildlife has been observed.

Three places of wildlife movements were identified and among them is the Handigundi Forest near Ramadevara Betta, where leopards were frequently sighted. Another location is the Hulthar Reserve Forest near Bidadi, a part of the elephant corridor linking Bannerghatta to Savandurga. The third wildlife crossing point is the region around K. Shettahalli, near Srirangapatna taluk.

Following this, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) proposed the construction of an animal overpass and an underpass costing Rs. 8.96 crore at K. Shettahalli which the Forest Department approved. Depending on the success of this overpass and underpass, two more sets of overpasses and underpasses were proposed near Ramadevara Betta and Hulthar Reserve Forest near Bidadi.

While 60 percent of the project at K. Shettihalli has been completed, the construction remains unfinished even as the completion of the access-controlled highway with barriers on either side has made it challenging for animals to cross from one side to the other safely.

The incomplete underpass built at K. Shettahalli village located half-a-kilometre from the overpass measuring 30 feet in width and 100 feet in length.

Animal kill

Consequently, animals are now attempting to cross the highway directly, putting passing vehicles at risk. There has been a rise in instances of animals colliding with vehicles and sustaining fatal injuries. Animals, including leopards, wild boars and other smaller species, have died while crossing, underscoring the urgent need to expedite the completion of the                             construction to ensure the safety of both wildlife and commuters on the highway.

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The animal crossing project was initiated at the nursery belonging to the Forest Department near K. Shettahalli. The overpass and underpass are located half a kilometre apart. The overpass spans 100 metres in length and is about 20 feet wide, while the underpass measures 30 feet in width and  100 feet in length.

The primary objective of these structures was to facilitate the safe movement of various wildlife species, allowing them to cross the road without encountering obstacles.

NHAI’s responsibility, says Forest Department

Deputy Conservator of Forests (DCF) Mandya, V. Raju, stated that the responsibility for completing the construction of the underpass and overpass to prevent further wildlife casualties lies with the NHAI, not the Forest Department.

“We have communicated about this issue multiple times, but there has been no significant progress. We will escalate the matter to higher authorities,” he said.

Conservator of Forests (Mysuru Circle) Dr. Malathi Priya,

said, “The completion of construction urgently requires land from the Forest Department. Despite multiple correspondences with NHAI officials, there has been little to no progress.”

NHAI’s alternative solution

Construction halted as the Forest Department failed to provide necessary land, said an engineer from NHAI on condition of anonymity. “We require two acres of land. Following due process, it will take at least two years or more of correspondence with the Forest Department to obtain approval. During this time, wildlife will continue to face significant challenges,” he explained.

The NHAI even decided to transfer the remaining funds from the Rs. 8.96 crore allocation to the Forest Department, allowing them to take over and complete the construction. “We are ready to transfer the funds so that the Forest Department can complete this much-needed project in the interest of wildlife. But will the Forest Department agree?” the officer questioned.

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Forest Department did not grant land, says MP Prathap Simha

Mysuru-Kodagu MP Prathap Simha emphasised that the completion of the project is entirely dependent on the availability of land. “Initially, with good intentions, we initiated the construction of the overpass and underpass to facilitate wildlife movement. However, the Forest Department’s failure to allocate the necessary land has led to the project coming to a standstill. This insufficient land allocation has hindered the project’s purpose. If the Forest Department allocates the required land promptly, we can swiftly complete the remaining work and ensure the smooth movement of wildlife, thereby alleviating their distress,” he said.

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