The increase in temperature every summer means different things to different people. While some people travel to different places, others hibernate in air-conditioned rooms.
However, for wild animals living in forested areas near cities, these months are challenging, as their water sources dry up, and this forces them to migrate to other areas.
Increasing deforestation and excavation around Pune have resulted in natural water springs drying up. This leaves the animals with no choice but to search for water bodies away from their own territories. Most of these animals are mammals like blackbucks, chinkaras, wolves and even leopards.
Since the heat during daytime is almost unbearable and makes the animals take shelter under trees or other such cool places, they tend to search for water bodies during late night or early morning hours.
And this usually requires them to cross paths with humans in the most dreaded of all territories—highways!
As we move further from urban spaces, the interaction of wildlife and humans becomes imminent. If you have ever travelled on the Pune-Mumbai expressway, you will know how lush the road looks because of the forests on both sides. However, the risk of hurting wildlife comes along with this beautiful scenery.
Langurs are the most common sight on highways around Pune, as are snakes, jungle cats and in rare cases, wolves and leopards. There are several instances of speeding vehicles hitting these animals who attempt to cross roads, and this accounts for the accidental killing of snakes, rabbits, jungle cats etc. According to Pune Mirror, about three mammals and more than 100 reptiles are killed on highways every month in the Pune division.
Taking note of these high numbers, the Pune division of the state forest department has decided to undertake a unique initiative to stop roadkills—man-made waterholes!
These waterholes will essentially be ponds constructed on either side of the highway and will provide animals with a way to quench their thirst without having to cross the highway in search of water.
Speaking to the Pune Mirror, Mahesh Bhavsar, the Assistant Conservator of forests, said, “We had surveyed the area and found that the migration for water during the summer is the real cause of accidental deaths of wild animals. As an experiment, we decided to dig waterholes on both sides of the highway so that animals get the necessary water on their side only.”
The initiative will be flagged off on the Pune-Solapur highway in the Daund forest area. The experiment is by no means a way to stop the natural migration of wild animals or the expansion of their territories. It is just an attempt to help the animals get water.
Lokesh Bapat, the founder of Tellus Organisation, an NGO working to preserve biodiversity in and around Pune, said, “This is a good initiative; there is a need to have one waterhole for every 5 sq km of forest area. Because of rampant excavation on hills around the forest, natural springs have dried up. The forest department must keep vigil in the forest area and ensure that there is enough water storage inside the holes. Deforestation and human interference are other reasons for migration and subsequent deaths.”
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)