NEFEJ releases report on construction of wildlife friendly infrastructure

  • Published Date : January 4, 2021

Institutionalize wildlife-friendly infrastructure construction: Study Report

On December 3 Sunday, the world’s rarest Bengal Tiger was killed in a collision with a vehicle on the Amalekhgunj Highway in Parsa National Park. This is the third reported death of a tiger in an accident. Not just tigers but many other species of wild animals are dying from such accidents every year. In addition to this, human lives are also being harmed by wildlife attacks while traveling on highways, roads or other places in various protected areas of the country. The damage on both sides is increasing every year, which is confirmed by the data obtained during the study. These accidents, however, can be prevented if the environmental aspects are taken into consideration while constructing linear like road, irrigation, railroads and transmission line.

Because of this, both the country’s expenditure on biodiversity conservation and the achievements made so far in the conservation sector have been impacted. Not only this, it has also impacted the international image earned by Nepal and its tourism sector.

Therefore, Nepal Forum of Environmental Journalists (NEFEJ) has conducted an on-site study for three months to draw the attention of the concerned stakeholders to address this issue despite the Coronavirus pandemic. The study was conducted for about three and a half months by a team of experts and journalists by visiting the field. The Forum prepared this report by conducting an on-site study of all the districts between Bara and Kailali in the Terai region of Nepal. The study report incorporates the condition of physical infrastructures in these Terai districts, affected areas, positive and negative aspects of infrastructure construction, basis for wildlife friendly infrastructure development as well as the issues to be addressed during construction. In this study, an attempt has been made to cover the construction projects of East-West Road Expansion, Postal Road, Irrigation Project, Amalekhgunj Pipeline, Lalitpur-Nijgadh Fast Track, proposed Nijgadh Airport and others.

KEY POINTS FOR MEDIA ADVOCACY

i.Biological corridors, habitat forests and critical bottlenecks should be identified and mapped out in advance so it would be useful reference data while planning/designing infrastructure projects. Provincial MoITFE should take initiation outside PAs while DNPWC in buffer zones.

ii.Environmental assessment studies such as EIA and IEE are primarily carried out for safeguarding environments against infrastructure and development. Hence, the rigorous and quality EIA are of utmost important. MoEF should give focus to ensure the high degree of quality. In order to ensure safeguarding environment, indirect benefits of ecosystems have to be taken in to consideration. At times, indirect benefits of biodiversity and ecosystems are overlooked in such assessments.

iii.Wildlife crossings are proved to be effective in Barandhabhar forest corridor.
Appropriate wildlife crossings are required where infrastructure projects have obstructed or will obstruct the free movements of wild animals. DNPWC, DoR, DoI, Provincial MoITFE, Local Governments, BZUC and CFUGs/Collaborative forest user group work together to identify the appropriate sites for wildlife crossing in impact areas. DoR shall support its technical expertise while designing appropriate structure with MoITFE (outside PAs) and DNPWC.

iv.Green and smart infrastructure should be promoted to allow minimum adverse impact on the environment and biodiversity. The concept of green and smart infrastructure respect the outstanding value of biodiversity and ecosystem services so it attempts to avoid such areas during planning or seeks ways to minimize the likely adverse impact on natural assets.

v.Provincial MoITFE/DFOs should identify the potential areas for compensatory plantation in respective province. Equally important is to make the entire process transparent (location and areas of plantation sites, contract agreement between
proponent and DFO, number and species of tree seeding, survival of tree seedling, management of plantation etc.) and provide the information to key stakeholders and public.

vi.Provincial MoITFE/DFO (outside PAs) and DNPWC should proactively coordinate with the local governments so as to make large numbers of infrastructure projects (road, irrigation, park construction) can be made green by implementing mitigation measures.

vii.Provincial MoITFE/DFO and DNPWC should proactively communicate with the DoI to budget fencing around irrigation canals where drowning of wild animals are reported. More wildlife friendly pathways leading to canals should be built as it provides wild animals with access to drinking water and also help in rescue operation.

viii.Close monitoring of heavy equipment (excavator, JCBs) which are currently being the main causes of landslide and deforestation, should be done by DFO, Park Office (inside Buffer zone). If IEE/EIA or contract agreement prescribes the use of only human labor instead of heavy equipment, it should be strictly enforced.

ix.The Gangetic Dolphin (Platanista gangetica) are the main attraction of Kailali district in high water season in Karnali, Mohana, Kadha, Kandra and Patharaiya river. MoITFE/DFO/Park Office should ensure the minimum water level for Dolphin. Also spillage of toxins and other lubricants in rivers should be strictly prohibited.

x.There are growing convergence of thoughts that corridors for wild elephants, numbers of trees to cut and hydrological function of Nijgad forest can be considerably addressed if Nijgad airport will be built in further south, a potential alternative location. In-depth study on all related aspects (environmental, social and others) are strongly recommended.

xi.Project Proponents, MoFE, DNPWC, Provincial MoITFE should strictly adhere to the constitutional provisions regarding Indigenous people during planning and implementation stage. Their genuine consultation would reduce the project cost and prevent delay in project completion.

Final Report on impacts of infrastrucutures on conservation: