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Tiger Population In 2 States Stands To Get Harmed By This National Highway Expansion

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By Oishimaya Sen Nag:

A shocking news grasped the wildlife conservationists of India when the Indian Government cleared a NHAI (National Highway Authority of India) project to expand the NH7 (National Highway 7) running through the Kanha-Pench tiger corridor, one of the most significant wildlife corridors in India.

Tiger

By definition, wildlife corridors are routes which connect fragmented wildlife habitats together. Movement of species across these corridors is essential for maintaining healthy and sustainable populations of species, and introducing genetic variability. Species move across these corridors in search of new territories, mating and for adapting to seasonal variations of food and water resources.

The Kanha-Pench tiger corridor connects the small tiger populations in the Pench Tiger Reserve, Maharashtra with the larger populations in the Kanha Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh. The safe movement of tigers across this corridor is absolutely necessary to maintain a healthy gene pool and sustainable population of tigers.

On 18th August, the NBWL (National Board of Wildlife), headed by our Environment Minister, Prakash Javadekar, gave the green signal to the reportedly ‘anti-green’ project of a four lane widening of the NH7, tearing apart hopes of revival and habitat of the wildlife of this region.

After a session of tug-of-war between proponents and opponents of the project, the Environment Ministry finally cleared the project after promising the implementation of mitigation measures to control loss of wildlife. Opposition from WII (Wildlife Institute of India), NGT (National Green Tribunal) along with signature campaigns and protests by wildlife lovers across the country were unable to withstand the ‘vote-bank’ pressures of developing India.

However, there is one hopeful side to this project- the mitigation measures promised in this project is based on a concept that is completely new in India. In many countries like Canada, USA and Sweden, wildlife road deaths are prevented by construction of ‘wildlife crossings’. The wildlife crossings are overpasses or underpasses that are constructed at critical points along a highway or a road that allows safe and free movement of wildlife from its habitat on one side of the road or highway to the other. The rest of the boundaries of wildlife habitat are fenced to avoid wildlife road kills. The crossings have natural vegetation of wild habitats and wildlife uses these routes as wildlife corridors.

For example, the Banff National Park of Canada has 44 wildlife crossing structures (38 underpasses and 6 overpasses) and 82 km of highway fencing on the Trans Canada Highway passing through the National Park. With years of rigorous monitoring and scientific research, the Banff National Park has been able to acclaim a massive success in saving wildlife corridors and curbing wildlife road kills with the help of wildlife crossing structures and fencing on the Trans Canada Highway.

A plan similar to the ‘wildlife crossing’ constructions on the Trans Canadian Highway, has been devised to solve the issue of the NH7 widening in the Kanha-Pench corridor. For the first time in India, 4 major and 14 minor eco-ducts and 3 underpasses will be constructed on the NH7 to allow safe passage of wildlife across the highway.

Now that the Government has given its clearance to the project, only future holds answer to the following questions:

  • In a country that is riddled with corruption, will the mitigation measures promised by the NHAI be actually executed?
  • Even if they are executed, will the mitigation measures be enough to ensure ecological disturbances do not accompany the project?
  • Will the Government be ready to shell out the extra cost required to conduct extensive scientific research and monitoring necessary for the success of such projects?
  • Will the Indian wildlife adapt itself to the new underpasses and overpasses created for its movement?
    Will it be possible to prevent wildlife road-kills on this extended highway?
  • Will the Indian public consciously take up the responsibility of pressurizing the authorities to ensure the mitigation measures are honestly undertaken and followed up in the long-term?

The fate of our wildlife will depend on answers to these questions. Only time and intentions will tell whether India’s ambition will exterminate her wildlife or India will accommodate her wild species into her developmental scenario.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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