State PWD moots overpasses, tunnels and arboreal crossings over NH-37 stretch from Jakhalabandha to Bokakhat, invites detailed project reports from consultancy firms
By Our Staff Reporter
Guwahati, April 18: The Assam government has chalked out a plan to convert the NH 37 stretch in Kaziranga into a wildlife friendly highway.
The State's PWD (NH works) has recently floated a tender for selection of a consultant to prepare the DPR for the animal-friendly NH-37 stretch from Jakhalabandha to Bokakhat.
The proposed stretch will be an elevated four-lane highway.
Official sources said the proposed project, which was chalked out after suggestions given by the Wildlife Institute of India (Dehradun), will include three elevated roads which may include one or two short tunnels.
"The design of the road would be either four-lane or two-lane expandable to four-lane traffic, keeping the future in consideration," they said.
The lengths of the flyovers will depend on the alignment which will be fixed considering both the engineering and environmental requirements. As the flyovers are likely to be long, intermediate approaches to the elevated road to link important settlements will be designed as required.
The alignment of the elevated road (flyover) will follow the existing tiol Highway.
"However, engineering requirements, economy and social issues may necessitate the alignment away from the existing NH. The decision on such cases should be taken jointly by the Kaziranga tiol Park (KNP) authority and the Public Works Building & NH Department, Assam," they said.
In the Rarigalu-Deopani section, the new alignment will abandon the existing alignment at Deosur hill (Burha Pahar) and take a new alignment to the south of the hill so that wild animals can use the entire hill as a highland during flood time. Animal over-passes will be constructed at the foothill on the southern side over the new road for animals to cross over during their migration to the Karbi Hills.
Since elephants are present in the landscape, the vertical clearance of the flyover will be at least 6 meters.
"The flyovers will have noise barriers on both sides. The height of the noise barriers will be such that the glare of vehicle headlights will not fall on the animal movement track. Use of pre-fabricated structures has been suggested to reduce disturbance. Piers of the elevated road will be vegetated with creepers to minimize the tunnel effect for the animals," the sources said.
Sources said the structures will be aesthetically harmonious with the surrounding landscape for which suitable colour pattern and design will be used.
According to the plan, the edges of artificial structure will be rounded off and sharp edges will be avoided as much as possible.
"The speed of the vehicles will be regulated and there will be a complete ban on blowing horns. Adequate sigges to create awareness will be placed at specific locations," they said.
In the Harmoti-Hatikhuli section, a road tunnel has been suggested through the hill behind the Burhi Mai Temple. "This is a very active animal corridor and the topography does not allow an animal underpass to be constructed. The road tunnel will be turally ventilated, discounting the need for any backup power sources which may lead to air and sound pollution. Adequate barriers will be erected to prevent the entry of animals, particularly elephants and rhinos, into the tunnels," they said.
The government has also recommended arboreal crossing structures for Hoolock Gibbons to cross over the road.
"A stretch of forest can be developed with local fast growing trees to bridge the small gap between the hillock on the KNP side on the north and Karbi hills on the south to facilitate the smooth movement of arboreal apes," they said.
Ajay Bordoloi, commission & special secretary PWD (NH), today told The Sentinel that the government has invited bids from consultants.
"After the DPR is prepared, it will be sent to the Central government for approval. It is a massive project which might cost an estimated Rs 3,000 crore," he said.
A large number of wild animals get killed and injured in road accidents when they move towards the Mikir Hills adjoining the park to seek refuge from annual floods due to the monsoons.
Almost every year, KNP, especially its low-lying areas, get flooded whenever the water level of the mighty Brahmaputra rises. As a result, the animals in the park take shelter on the NH 37 or move up to the nearby Karbi-Anglong district after crossing the NH 37.
In the process, a number of animals are killed annually by speeding vehicles on the highway. On an average, 50 animals are run over on the highway during floods every year.