Friday, June 2
Ladakh’s infra projects endangering its wildlife

Ladakh’s infra projects endangering its wildlife


LEH: Since the Union Territory of Ladakh characterized by its high-altitude desert landscape and extreme weather conditions, the region is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including the snow leopard, Tibetan antelope, Himalayan brown bear, and many other species that are adapted to the harsh environment.

However, the region is also undergoing rapid development, with a number of infrastructural projects being planned and already underway. These projects in one way or other have a significant impact on the local wildlife, and the administration is less likely keen take preventive measures to minimize negative effects.

The construction of roads, tourism infra, and other infrastructural projects do have a significant impact on wildlife by altering their habitat, disrupting migration patterns, and increasing human-wildlife conflicts, said a local wildlife expert.

Considering as an example, the construction of the Leh-Manali highway through the Hemis National Park has led to the fragmentation of the snow leopard’s habitat, making it more difficult for the species to move between its different ranges, he said and added that the the construction of the Zojila Tunnel could disrupt the migration patterns of the Tibetan antelope and other species that rely on the Changthang plateau.

Apart from this, the other wild species for which the UT has been known and home for, the infrastructural projects big or small have disturbed the ecosystem and ecological balance, he said. “The UT needs immediate measure to minimize the negative impact of infrastructural projects on wildlife.”

Suggestive measures:

The experts and wildlife lovers have suggested certain measures and initiatives to be taken to reduce and minimize the rich of disturbing ecological balance impacting the wildlife in Ladakh UT.

Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs): Essential to identify potential impacts on wildlife and their habitats. EIAs assessments should be conducted before any infrastructural projects are approved, and they should be based on scientific data and involve consultation with local communities and wildlife experts.

Establishing Wildlife Corridors: Wildlife corridors should be established to ensure that species can move between different ranges and habitats without being disrupted by roads and other infrastructure. The corridors can be created by rewilding degraded areas, restoring natural habitats, and establishing green belts along roads and railways.

Building Wildlife Crossings: Wildlife crossings such as overpasses and underpasses can help reduce the number of wildlife-vehicle collisions and enable species to move safely across roads and railways.

Mitigation Measures: Mitigation measures like noise barriers, fencing, and warning signs should be strictly implemented to reduce the impact of infrastructure on wildlife and their habitats.

Sustainable Development: Sustainable development practices including eco-tourism, renewable energy, and organic agriculture promotion is a must to help minimize the impact of infrastructural projects on wildlife in Ladakh.

Additionally, the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) has also proposed a study to examine the impact of infrastructural projects on wildlife in Ladakh UT.

During the 72nd meeting of the NBWL’s standing committee held last month, an official from the Central Government had suggested conducting a study on the movement of wildlife in Ladakh, considering the various infrastructural projects taking place in the region.

The suggestion was made when discussing a proposal to divert wildlife land for an infrastructural project. Following deliberation, the committee recommended that the Wildlife Institute of India carry out a study to assess the effects of infrastructural development on wildlife movement in Ladakh. However, the NBWL released the meeting’s record note on May 11, 2023.

Pertinent to mention here Ladakh is home to two wildlife sanctuaries, namely Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary and Karakoram Wildlife Sanctuary. Snow leopard, which is listed as a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), is perhaps the most iconic species found in the region. The region is also an important bird-watching destination, with over 300 species of birds recorded in Ladakh.

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