Bengaluru, Oct 8: Even as the central government is making desperate attempts to see that the ban on night traffic through the Bandipur forests is lifted, nothing much has come of it.
On Saturday, the Union government has suggested to the Supreme Court to allow movement of transport vehicles 24x7 on the national highway passing through Bandipur Tiger Reserve but only after developing five elevated roads of one kilometre each.
The flyover would cost in the region of Rs. 1,200 crores and the cost would have to be shared between the two states of Karnataka and Kerala and the Central Government.
"The metalled road under the elevated sections would be milled and converted into a forest landscape to maintain continuity of the forest with ease of movement of wildlife without any barriers," the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways said.
A stretch of 34.60 km of National Highway 212 passes through Bandipur and Wayanad national parks.The traffic is banned on the highway from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. to avoid road kills and reduce disturbance to wildlife.
Tamil Nadu had no issue with the ban. Karnataka stuck to its stand on restriction on traffic, since an alternative route via Mysuru-Hunsur-Gonnikoppal-Kutta, was being used by commuters for the last nine years. Kerala, however, wanted the lifting of the ban, citing hardships.
Due to lack of consensus, the Union government sought directions from the top court for constructing elevated roads at an estimated cost of Rs 450 to Rs 500 crore with the ministry agreeing to bear 50% cost and Kerala the remaining 50%.
A fresh start
This row started as a result of the Central government asking Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy to withdraw the ban so that an elevated corridor or road and other infrastructure could be started and the Central ministry suggested that the chief minister had agreed to lift the ban.
The PWD Minister Mr H.D. Revanna also hurriedly announced that a flyover could come up every 2.50 km inside Bandipur. When the news triggered opposition from environmentalists and other sections of the society, the chief minister gathered himself quickly stayed the decision.
What Conservationists say?
Conservationists say the interests of wildlife and ecosystem should to be protected, and Bandipur free of petty politics.
Activists are alarmed after the central governments deperate actions for lift in night ban Wildlife activists and volunteers in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala, are set to launch a massive drive urging decision makers to maintain status quo.
Wildlife experts say the night ban addresses the issue of roadkill and data recorded before and after the night traffic ban is a clear indication of its positive impact, and want the Karnataka and Kerala governments, politicians and Supreme Court to accept it, especially with the Centre proposing lifting of the ban.
Night traffic banned in 2009
Karnataka introduced a ban on night traffic through Bandipur in 2009 to reduce road kills and disturbance to wildlife and the decision was challenged in the High Court of Karnataka, which upheld the move.
The alternative road (Hunsur-Gonikoppa-Kutta-Mananthavady) was developed by Karnataka by spending Rs75 crore based on the request made by Kerala in Karnataka High Courts. But those lobbying for opening the road approached the Supreme Court, which has constituted a committee to examine the issue.
75 per cent dip in animal deaths
There is a significant reduction in the number of road kills in Bandipur ever since the ban on night traffic through the tiger reserve was introduced in 2009.
In the four years from 2004 to 2007, before the ban, 91 mammals belonging to 14 species, 75 birds, and 56 reptiles were killed by speeding vehicles. After the ban was imposed, roadkill cases dipped by 75%, with only 29 mammals dying from 2010 to 2018. Increased animal movement has also been noticed.