Brushing aside objections raised by Karnataka and the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) has placed before the Supreme Court its proposal to expand NH-212 that cuts through the Bandipur tiger reserve. Kerala, on its part, has sought exemption from the nine-year-long ban on night traffic in Bandipur to “expedite relief and rehabilitation operations.”
The case comes up for hearing on Friday. Following a spate of road kills between 2004 and 2007, the Karnataka High Court in 2009 banned night traffic on NH-67 and NH-212 that linked the state with Tamil Nadu and Kerala respectively. Kerala went to the Supreme Court against the order in 2010.
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This January, the Supreme Court set up a committee under the secretary, MoRTH, with a representative each from the three state governments and the NTCA to find a solution. In March, the NTCA recommended maintaining status quo. In April, Karnataka also wrote to the MoRTH that it wanted to “continue with the existing restrictions” and that Tamil Nadu had also accepted the present arrangement.
In July, however, MoRTH in a letter said that Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy agreed to the ministry’s proposal to “open the NH-212 on a 24×7 basis and widening it with adequate mitigation measures”, and asked the state for its formal consent.
In August, the Karnataka government refused to accept the ministry’s proposal and in a letter conveyed its stand in favour of a status quo. The same month, the Environment ministry also reiterated its earlier stand through the NTCA.
Admitting that no consensus could be reached, MoRTH secretary YS Malik in his submission to the Supreme Court has recommended his ministry’s plan for expanding NH-212.
Arguing that the alternative hilly road takes longer and adds to fuel consumption, the MoRTH seeks to widen the existing width of 10-15 metres to a uniform 15 meters, create five elevated stretches of 1-km each and install steel-wired 8-feet high fencing on both sides of the road.
Kerala, meanwhile, has sought a six-month exemption to the night traffic ban through the Bandipur tiger reserve as an interim relief “for carrying goods for needy people who have lost everything in the flood.”