Tigerfirst is the incubator, designer, advocate, campaigner, pioneering lobbyist 🙂 of the forest road toll fee/tax policy instrument to make vehicular traffic pay for damages to wildlife on highways cutting through ecologically sensitive areas & forests in India . It was designed & proposed in 2013, and been operations since 2014 on the 100 km road stretch in NSTR, a Tiger Reserve, South India. The policy instrument makes vehicular traffic users pay for damages (habitat loss, road kills, plastic & litter, pollution) to wildlife on forest roads.
It is structured as a combination of legal, economic, social & conservation arguments – packaged in a manner suitable (win-win) for all the stake holders – travellers, locals, politicians, government and most importantly, the wildlife. An estimated $10 million will be collected as fees by 2035. This is a significant funding source for wildlife conservation & protection measures.
By making polluters pay, this wildlife conservation policy instrument reduces the dependency on government funds or charities/donations. Making the polluters pay is a bedrock environmental principle and a matter of simple justice. If the actors/agents most responsible for pollution can escape the present liability due to damaging the ecosystem, then the next generation will have to shoulder the responsibility which over the next few decades will cost the country significantly more.
With the locals engaged as partners in management of the funds collected, this serves as an example of successful policy innovation in the emerging scientific field of sustainable transport & road ecology.
With active support and initiative from the Forest departments, this policy instrument is now operational in two tiger reserves of India – in the states of AP & TS. It is in line with the globally accepted principle of polluter pays, and a first of its kind in India on forest highways. The funds collected are to be used to exclusively to pay for conservation measures and mitigation of road kill & litter damages to wildlife.
While there are many initiatives & regulations in the offing for road kill mitigation measures for new forest highway proposals, there are almost none to deal with the wildlife damages on existing forest roads. These highways cause significant (and continous damages) to wildlife on a daily basis. It is a fact that the road kills on forest highways are much higher in numbers than the poaching damages to wildlife. It is not just the big ones that get most attention – tigers, leopards, elephants, deer etc. It is also about the countless little ones – snakes, frogs, butterflies etc. that are killed in hundreds across the forest roads on a daily basis. It is a problem of serious biodiversity loss that has not been given enough attention.
The traffic on these roads cannot be closed for various reasons (beyond the control of the government forest departments). In this case, the next best alternative is to make people pay for damages.
If you can’t stop them, charge them! Most people, it was found, are willing to pay when given the right information!!
Our Published Articles on the Subject of Toll Tax on Forest Highways