RTA’s this is how the doctor’s categorize any injury/death that occur on the road, because of vehicular hit. RTA stands for “Road Traffic Accident”, in India RTA/Traffic Collisions are a major source of deaths, injuries and property damage every year.
The Report on Road Safety, published by the World Health Organization (WHO) identified the major causes of traffic collisions as rash driving/over the speed limit, driving under the influence of liquor/drugs, use of mobile phones, not using helmets/safety belts, jumping red lights, wrong crossing, over loading etc. The moment there is any road accident in any part of the state, it gets flashed in the local social media, mostly through What’s App as it involves the life of a human being and every effort is made to reach to the administration or any other help for the rescue of the injured.
Oct 2-Oct 8
The life of a human being cannot be compared to any other living being on this planet, but there are other living beings also, who are the silent victims of these traffic collisions, “the wild animals”, which gets killed on the road and are categorised as “Road Kills”.
The rapid expansion of roads and highways through Forest Areas or Protected Areas, is one of the most serious threats to the wildlife today. The road kills have been recorded almost from every state of the country and not necessarily within the Protected Areas/Forests, as the wild animals do not recognise these administratively created boundaries. More so, the animals don’t recognise road as a hazard. In our state, roads do pass through the forests and even through the Protected Areas like the Jammu-Udhampur Road passes through two Wildlife Sanctuaries i.e. Ramnagar Wildlife Sanctuary and the Nandini Wildlife Sanctuary, road from Surinsar to Mansar passes through the Surinsar-Mansar Wildlife Sanctuary and the Mughal road passes through the Heerpora Wildlife Sanctuary. Although, these roads are the lifeline of a nation and necessary for the development but equally pose threat to the wildlife. These roads cut through continuous forest, fragmenting them into patches. The wild animals have to cross these man-made roads in search of food, mates and other resources, like water and shelter. It is when, these wild fauna (animals) are hit by the speedy vehicles, the insects (moths, butterflies, scorpions etc); crawling reptiles like snakes, monitor lizards; frogs and toads; birds mostly blue rock pigeons, mynas; mammals like monkeys, civets, neelgai, sambar, jackals, hares and to an extent the Leopards, have been killed in these traffic collisions in Jammu and Kashmir. The feeding of monkeys along the national highways by the public especially on Tuesday also results in injury or even death because of vehicular hit.
At least, in our country, nobody will kill a wild animal intentionally by his/her speedy vehicle, such collisions are mostly accidental but avoidable. However, a study in Ontario, Canada in 1996 found many reptile killed on portions of the road where vehicle tyres do not usually pass over, which led to the inference that some drivers intentionally run over reptiles. To verify this hypothesis, research in 2007 found that 2.7% of drivers intentionally hit reptile decoys masquerading as snakes and turtles. “Indeed, several drivers were observed speeding up and positioning their vehicles to hit the reptiles”. Male drivers hit the reptile decoys more often than female drivers. On a more compassionate note, 3.4% of male drivers and 3% of female drivers stopped to rescue the reptile decoys.
However, in our society, most of us might have heard that if a snake is accidentally killed by somebody in a road accident, he/she is then advised to get a small/symbolic snake be made in silver by goldsmith and be donated in a Nag temple after some purifying and expiatory rituals. It means that we do not intentionally hit the animals but accidentally the animal gets hurt or killed.
In India,(PATH) ‘Provide Animals safe Transit on Highways’ was initiated by Environment Conservation Group in 2015, to study the impact of roads on Indian wildlife. A team of five wildlife conservationists led by Mr. R. Mohammed Saleem, had undertaken a forty-four-day expedition, traveling more than 17,000 kilometres across 22 states to study and spread awareness on roadkill.
The question comes what to do? Under “The Jammu and Kashmir Wildlife Protection Act 1978 AA 2002” killing of any wild animal by any means is an offence, until and unless proves otherwise. Since, it is very difficult to know who has hit the wild animal on the road, making it impossible to convict the culprit in the absence of the concrete evidences.
The Department of Wildlife Protection, J&K Govt. has placed sign boards on the road sides with the messages “you are passing through wildlife areas, drive slowly”. We must drive slowly and carefully in wildlife/forest areas, the speed limit should not be more than 20 km per hour. And in certain cases the night traffic on the highways passing through the protected areas/ national parks have been banned, like the ban on night traffic on National Highway 766 passing through the Bandipur National Park. The other option could be to have speed breakers after every 100 metres on the roads passing through Protected Areas/forests so that the drivers will not get a chance to overspeed and accidents can be avoided.
Canadian writer Timothy Findley, wrote about the experience of seeing killed animals on highways during travels: “The dead by the road, or on it, testify to the presence of man. Their little gestures of pain-paws, wings and tails-are the saddest, the loneliest, most forlorn postures of the dead I can imagine. When we have stopped killing animals as though they were so much refuse, we will stop killing one another. But the highways show our indifference to death, so long as it is someone else’s. It is an attitude of the human mind I do not grasp.
According to Sh. Suresh Kumar Gupta IFS (Chief Wildlife Warden, J&K), we humans share our world with other creatures and have more cognitive abilities than any other living beings, therefore it becomes our prime responsibility to drive carefully and avoid such accidents which results in deaths of these wild animals. Even the honourable Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, while featuring in the Man Vs Wild programme with Bear Grylls have stressed on the importance of conservation of the wild fauna and flora of the country. Therefore, it is our duty to preserve our natural heritage or this will be lost forever and one of the reason will be our negligent driving.
The author is Assistant Conservator of Forests (Wildlife)