Green Minute News

The Supreme Court has upheld the Karnataka High Court order on enforcement of nine hour night traffic ban in Bandipur National Park. In 2010, the Kerala government had filed a special leave petition challenging the traffic restrictions on NH-212 (NH-766) and claimed that it was adversely affecting the traffic movement and affecting business prospects in Wayanad.

However, all along, the hearing in this case with many intervening petitions filed by wildlife organizations and others from Karnataka and Kerala, the former was steadfast in the continuation of the nine hour ban from 9 pm to 6 am. With Bandipur home to the highest density of tigers in the country and home to elephants, leopards and other wildlife, the state maintained that it was not feasible to lift the ban and the alternative road built by them was sufficient for the present level of business and traffic between the two states.

In the aftermath of varied hearings that went on for the last 10 years as also intervening petitions, the Supreme Court upheld the ban and said it was high time the Centre took permanent measures so as to avoid highways passing through core areas of tiger reserve. However, on the issue of restrictions in buffer areas, it agreed in principle but did not specify anything. Further, the apex court directed the authorities to complete the upgradation of the alternative alignment.

Photo credit: Tharangini

The Court also stressed the existing stretch must be closed for traffic for protection and conservation of wildlife in this protected area. Welcoming the order, wildlife organizations and activists said there should be a clear policy from concerned agencies to completely avoid construction of highways through protected areas and look for alternative routes at the proposal stage even if the project cost doubles.

Earlier, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways along with Ministry of Environment and Forests had filed an affidavit in the apex court supporting the ban on this highway that traverses Bandipur Tiger Reserve. Further, the Road Transport ministry dropped the idea of an elevated corridor in the tiger reserve.

Photo Credit : Tharangini

It may be recollected  that in June 2009, the then DCF, Bandipur had passed an order banning all kinds of vehicular movement on NH-212 (now NH-766) in view of rising incidents of road kills. But the closure of the NH went for a toss with protests. However, with a petition filed in the Karnataka High Court by an advocate, the night traffic ban was restored by the court in 2010.

Later, Kerala filed a SLP in the Supreme Court and said it was affecting both trading and business prospects and goods movement in Wayanad and so the ban should be lifted. In fact, talks between the chief ministers of the two states failed to resolve the issue with Karnataka not agreeable to lift the ban. Also, Karnataka went on to build an alternative road at a cost of Rs 75 crore.

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