The Kerala government has filed a petition in the Supreme Court opposing a ban on night traffic on stretches of two National Highways that pass through Karnatakas Bandipur tiger reserve.
Following reports of tigers,deer and elephants being run over by vehicles,the Karnataka High Court in March ordered stopping of night traffic on NH 212 and NH 67. Resulting from the order,traffic has been banned between 9 pm and 6 am over 13 km of NH 212 and 20 km of NH 67.
In its appeal,Kerala has called Karnatakas stand as smacking of romantic notions and myopic,arguing the ban will seriously impact the states economy. Interestingly,among the suggestions the Kerala government has offered as alternatives to the ban are: a convoy of vehicles from the forest department can accompany commercial trucks at night or a new elevated road that can be made on pillars.
The issue now promises to snowball as the National Tiger Conservation Authority is set to become a party and oppose the petition. The Authority,helmed by the Ministry of Environment and Forests,has decided to oppose the petition in the apex court. This is an issue of all kinds of animals dying because of traffic through the tiger reserve. This is one of the best areas that we have. We have decided to appeal against this (petition) in the Supreme Court, said Rajesh Gopal,Member Secretary,National Tiger Conservation Authority.
While Kerala has said in its petition that the ban on night traffic on the two highways will lead to discomfort of lakhs of people in that state and would also affect the vegetable market there,wildlife activists said there are existing routes which create a diversion of 30-40 km which should instead be used.
These (NH 212 and NH 67) are winding roads that go through the park and even if the driver exerts caution,it is difficult to prevent frequent death of wildlife,as animals freeze when headlights fall on them, said Sanjay Gubbi from Wildlife Conservation Society,which is involved in the original petition in the HC. Keralas argument that the vegetable market is being affected is factually incorrect. The vegetable batches leave during the day,as they have to reach neighbouring states early in the morning.
There is only one other tiger reserve in India where night traffic is effectively banned: Nagarhole tiger reserve,which interestingly is part of a contiguous corridor with Bandipur. It is also one of the richest biodiversity hotspots in the country,being both tiger and elephant land. Coorg has been found to be home to a new species of frog which makes its own nests.