Thane: It’s a plan to protect wildlife while upgrading urban infrastructure. Two stretches of an arterial state highway at Thane are slated to be elevated to pre-empt wildlife from being run over on Ghodbunder Road while allowing free vehicular passage on the stretch. Wildlife especially leopards, are known to frequent the stretch that skirts the eastern fringe of Sanjay Gandhi National Park, said officials.

The state’s road agency, MSRDC, has plans to elevate the existing Ghodbunder Road at two stretches — between Gaimukh and Fountain Hotel — and have underpasses at the two stretches. The busy road will be aligned to a freewayproposed to come up nearby. Ghodbunder Road links Thane to Mumbai’s western suburbs, at Borivli.

Experts said that the stretch of Ghodbunder Road that lies beyond Thane city, especially near Chena creek and beyond, is frequented by wild cats in search of watering holes. While local forest officials said there have been no wildlife casualties here in the recent past, experts said it is necessary to elevate the road, considering that the state has lost 67 leopards in road mishaps between January last year and this May.

An official who was present at the meeting said that the plan is that the existing four lane Ghodbunder road will be elevated at two spots and will be aligned with the proposed 4.6km proposed freeway through ramps. The stretch beneath the elevated stretch could then be left untouched for wild animals to move freely below.

“While one of the stretches near Fountain hotel has already been identified, the other near the Gaimukh-end will be identified by an expert team from the state wildlife board after which MSRDC will revise the drawing plan for the elevated road,” said an official. “The idea is to ensure that wildlife, especially leopards, get their right of way and don’t interfere with heavy traffic son the stretch.”

Shiv Sena parliamentarian Rajan Vichare, who was part of the meeting, said that he has been pushing for speedy implementation of the elevated road that will not just help wildlife but also benefit motorists. “The project has been languishing for the past several years. I have asked the wildlife department and MSRDC to hasten up surveys and ensure the freeway is constructed soon,” he said.