Loud honking and over speeding by motorists are things banned in certain countries but in India, only the exact opposite seems to work. Some motorists have succumbed to the Periodic unnecessary honking syndrome (PUHS) and do this all the time. May be they will continue to do the same if put on a plane too! And not just that, they are rash and insensitive while driving about. This has led to many accidents and even communal wars in the past. This same insensitive attitude towards a fellow being gets automatically carried on even when they are driving in the forest areas.
|Traffic stopped for easy movement- pic seshadri|
Firstly, there should not be public vehicles plying in forests but this cannot be helped and thus measures to reduce the impacts should be in place. This does not seem to be the concern of anybody. Vehicles inside a forest are a nuisance and one must witness the annual Influx of vehicles during the SMK festival in KMTR. The number of vehicles plying on the road are, simply put- astronomical. With local pressures, the roads are thrown open for pilgrims to enter the reserve at night and this, adds to the existing problem of road kills, pollution, dust and other effects. The people in rented or own vehicles will be in a maddening frenzy to reach the temple camping grounds and find a spot to live for the next 10 or so days. This annual migration happens almost up to 10 days before the festival itself. The roads are re done and everything is made easy to facilitate the easy movement of vehicles. The road shoulders are packed with mud and leveled so that the road can occupy a larger volume of traffic and traffic police are put in various places to regulate the people.
The drivers always are of the boorish sort and seem to think of someone overtaking them as an insult often chasing them and blocking their path. And on the other hand, honk their heads off trying to overtake the precursor. To add to this, all most all the vehicles have blaring music which, more often than not, out of tune and being played in cheap Chinese speakers which sound no different than a donkey braying in pain. Almost all vehicles ply at high speeds and people would have hung their wet clothes, from the Agasthiyar watterpallies (read Waterfalls) all over the vehicles. This whole thing is an eyesore inside the forest. The bright light is another impeccable hand of this four wheeled assassin on the run. The lights are so bright that I sometimes think it can reach the moon!
|speeding vehicle at night- pic seshadri|
All this, has a large implication on the forest and its dwellers. Most of the animals are nocturnal by behavior and those that are not are also forced into moving about in the night due to the train like movement of vehicles in day. When vehicles move in the night too, the animals are left with no choice. They have to either risk themselves from getting run over, stay put in one place without moving or get used to it!
Unfortunately, my observations during the night road transects seem to suggest that the animals have picked the last strategy. This is a bad thing for wildlife. Once they get used to people, it becomes easy for one to walk right up to an animal and shoot it point blank, capture them live or just tease them for the fun of it. The animal might also get crushed by vehicles as they do not bother to run for cover. We in fact had many instances which seem to suggest that the last one seems to be occurring. Many hard to see animals like the Slender loris,Civets, Mouse deers and even Leopards are seen right next to roads and they don’t seem to bother of the hundreds of speeding vehicles. We have many times experimented with shining the lights right on to them, honking badly and revving the engines so as to see their responses and nothing seems to make them run for cover. I even walked up to a mouse deer and shot pictures in macro mode! Another mouse deer was merrily feeding along the roads even as I was shooting pictures and revving the engine badly.
|Un-fazed mouse deer Pic- Seshadri|
|Feeding Mouse deer Pic-seshadri|
People who come to the pilgrimage are of course, insensitive to all this, some of them, stop to look for animals, some purposefully increase speed and try to run over animals (and even humans, especially those doing road kill surveys!) but most of them turn a blind eye towards these things. Others do not realize that their actions have or can lead to such behavior changes in animals which will be detrimental for wildlife. They will be more prone to getting run over, caught and eaten by poachers and so on. The problem here is clearly the attitude of drivers and those who come in the vehicles. Strict measures can and should be taken to control this behavior and honking should be prohibited in the forest. The speed should be regulated so that the animals if at all take the risk to cross, will get a little more time before they get hit and die without even knowing what hit them. We need to target this attitude of people and need to work on sensitizing them to their own actions which they seem to be doing without realizing the implications of it. Until things change, the animals of the Mundanthurai plateau and many other forest of India are victims of the sorry state of human mentality.