The Uttarakhand Forest Department has built a first-of-its-kind elevated ‘eco-bridge’ across a busy highway in Ramnagar forest division so that reptiles trying to cross over are not crushed under traffic.
Uttarakhand’s forest department has built a one-of-its-kind bridge across the two-lane Kaladhungi-Nainital highway called ‘Eco Bridge’ to help reptiles cross roads. The highway is the main route to Nainital and is used by a large number of vehicles, especially in the tourist season. The 90-foot-long structure of bamboo, jute, and grass was built across the two-lane Kaladhungi-Nainital highway by local contractors over a period of 10 days. The cost of the bridge is Rs 2 lakh. The adjoining jungle is home to lizards, snakes, including pythons, rodent squirrels and monkeys, and the reptiles frequently get crushed under the passing vehicles. The 5-foot-wide, 40-foot-high bridge can take the weight of three adult humans, and forest officials said they hope it would be used by even leopards.
Ramnagar Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Chandra Shekhar Joshi said that the bridge, which will be monitored by four camera traps, will be studied as a model by the Forest Department. Joshi said that the bridge has been made at a point where the road arcs in a wide ‘U’, and vehicles going downhill often travel at high speed. It is expected that by reducing the need for sudden braking in front of a crossing animal, the road will be safer for human beings too. “This is a dense forest, and elephants, leopards, deer, and blue bulls move in this area. Drivers can see them from some distance and slow down or stop, but they rarely do so for snakes, lizards, monitors, or squirrels,” said a forest official. He said that in order to attract reptiles and other small animals to the bridge, creepers will be grown it and it will be layered with grass and leaves. The DFO said that boards were being put up to create awareness of the need to protect reptiles. Forest staff would patrol the area to ensure tourists do not try to use the bridge for selfies, he added.