Young tiger in India © Christopher Kray/Flick (under a Creative Commons License)

Working Group:
Landscape Connectivity in India

Rapid expansion of transport networks and other infrastructure to meet development needs is occurring in countries around the world. This expansion potentially severs connectivity across landscapes and disrupts gene flow for wide-ranging endangered species. The future of wildlife populations, particularly large mammals, depends on their ability to safely disperse across landscapes, but in many countries, there is no blueprint to reconcile competing interests for infrastructure expansion and conservation outside the boundaries of protected areas.

Photo: © Christopher Kray/flickr (under a creative commons license) | More Info

Working Group Summary

Meeting Development Needs While Maintaining Landscape Connectivity

In India, protected areas are often too small to support viable populations of wide-ranging species, such as elephants and tigers. Connectivity between protected areas is crucial for genetic viability of these species. Highways and other development needs can sever connectivity between protected areas. The Landscape Connectivity in India Working Group focuses on developing strategies and blueprints to help decision-makers simultaneously meet needs for infrastructure development while maintaining connectivity of the landscape.

Learn about the Challenge

 

The Challenge

India has No Blueprint to Reconcile Competition Between Infrastructure Expansion and Conservation Outside Protected Areas

Transportation networks, urbanization and energy infrastructure are critical for economic development and are expanding at a rapid pace throughout the developing world. While such development is key for transport of goods, access to market, and other necessities of modern economies, it also challenges conservation goals by fragmenting wildlife habitat into smaller isolated patches. Severed connectivity impedes wildlife movement, disrupts gene flow of endangered wildlife, curtails dispersal, and constrains options for adapting to climate change.

In India, the expansion of highways, rails, power plants, mines, dams and other infrastructure is at the core of the government’s approach to achieve rapid growth. India is also a mega-diversity country and holds remaining populations of wide-ranging, endangered species such as tigers and Asian elephants, but protected areas cover less than 5 percent of the geographical area in the country. Additionally, protected areas are often too small to support viable populations of species. As a result, the future of wildlife populations, particularly large mammals, depends on their ability to safely disperse across landscapes outside the protected area network.

However, there is currently no blueprint to reconcile competing interests for infrastructure expansion and conservation outside the boundaries of protected areas in India.

Learn about the Inquiry

Ghandi Setu Bridge © Chandravir Singh/flickr (under creative commons license)

The Inquiry

Establishing a Platform for Communication and Planning Across the Conservation Community and Sectors Involved in Infrastructure Expansion

The Working Group’s goal is to establish a platform for communication and planning across the conservation community and sectors involved in infrastructure expansion. The Working Group plans to provide an information base, including costs and effectiveness, for evaluating alternative strategies for infrastructure development in India. Alternatives include technological options (e.g. overpasses), planning (e.g. scenarios based on connectivity modeling for siting decisions), and management (e.g. road closures at sensitive times).

The Working Group is applying the analyses of alternative strategies to two forested biodiversity rich landscapes in India – Central India and the Western Ghats – where infrastructure is expanding. The inquiry is grounded in landscape-scale realities, building on national-level studies that have previously identified the critical need to maintain connectivity between protected areas in India.

The two project areas are among the largest and most viable forested conservation landscapes in India. They present opportunities to plan and inform infrastructure expansions while maintaining viable populations of iconic wild species. Both of these landscapes contain several protected areas, and both landscapes currently maintain some structural connectivity.

Specific examples of developmental needs in the two landscapes are: highways, human settlements, coal and manganese mining, and thermal power plants in critical parts of the corridors in Central India; and roads, solar energy, wind energy, and dams in the Western Ghats.

India in general, and these landscapes in particular, are important test beds for examining practical ways to reconcile competing interests for conservation and economic development. This work lays the groundwork for approaches and information that can be applied in other landscapes in India and other parts of the developing world to achieve action on the ground.

Meet the Team

Photo: © Chandravir Singh/flickr (under a creative commons license) | More Info

The Team

Landscape Connectivity in India Working Group

SNAP