In first, the national highways (NH-181 – Chinthamanipudur – Coonoor) wing of the state highways department is planning to build a 2.4km flyover through a reserve forest, from Kallar to the IInd hairpin bend of Mettupalayam – Coonoor Road, to protect wild animals including elephants.
Madurai-based COS Consultancy Services has been roped in to conduct a feasibility study for the Rs 200 crore structure and a detailed project report (DRP) will be prepared soon, an official told.
Feasible study for the 12-metre-wide flyover will begin at Kallar on December 15. DRP will be submitted to the national highways wing before June,” he said. It will be designed to be environment-friendly.
The World Wide Fund (WWF) for Nature – India has been conducting studies at the Kallar elephant corridor since 2007. The corridor, on the busy Mettupalayam – Coonoor Road, is used by animals including elephants, leopards, deer, sloth bears and gaurs.
With more than 8,500 vehicles passing through the stretch daily, animals are forced to cross the road, risking their lives or finding alternative routes through populated areas, resulting in human-animal conflicts.
Chief conservator of forests of Coimbatore circle and field director of Anaimalai Tiger Reserve (ATR) S Ramasubramanian said the forest department has adopted several measures to protect the corridor. “We welcome the plan to construct the flyover and hope the ministry of environment and forests will clear the project soon,” he said.
D Boominathan, landscape co-ordinator of WWF-India in Coimbatore, said the corridor is a crucial link between two major elephant habitats of Coimbatore, Attapadi,
Palakkad- Mannarkad and Silent Valley in the south, and Sathyamangalam, Mudumalai Tiger Reserve and Erode forest division in the north.
The narrow habitat between Bhavanisagar and Kallar, where elephant movement occurs along the southeastern slopes of Nilgiris, has several bottlenecks. Among these, the national highway at Kallar is the most critical barrier for the movement of elephants.
In 2014, former Coimbatore collector Archana Patnaik and forest department officials had visited Kallar to discuss the plan to construct an overpass.
The flyover would ensure the free and safe movement of animals, especially for long-ranging species like elephants that migrate seasonally for food, water and socialising.
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