BENGALURU:With the Union Ministry of Road and Transport (MoRT) trying to convince Karnataka to open NH-212 passing through Bandipur Tiger Reserve, for night traffic, Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy has assured the forest officials of abiding by the earlier government’s decision to continue with the ban from 9 pm to 6 am.
In a recent letter to the Chief Secretary, MoRT Secretary Y S Malik has come out with a ‘series of measures’ for opening the highway 24x365 days, thereby, ignoring its own expert committee report. The measures suggested in the Bandipur Core Zone for 25 km include building of four elevated roads, widening of highway to 15 metres, 8-feet-high steel wire fencing, etc.
Since 2010, Karnataka has been opposing lifting of the night traffic ban while Kerala has been putting pressure on Karnataka. Although successive CMs — B S Yeddyurappa, D V Sadananda Gowda, Jagadish Shettar and Siddaramaiah have resisted this move — the Centre continues to put enormous pressure, say activists.
Recently, a committee under the Chairmanship of MoRT was formed with NTCA as one of the members which, after field inspection, submitted that the night traffic ban should continue.
Thrashing the MoRT’s arguments, activist Santhosh says, “Police statistics highlight that human accidents have reduced by 50 per cent after the night ban. Further, an alternative road (Hunsur-Gonikoppa-Kutta-Mananthavady) was developed at a cost of `75 crore only on Kerala’s request. Based on High Court orders, the alternative road was repaired. Now, MoRT makes false claims that substantial parts of the alternative road passes is hilly terrain. Why did Kerala request for the development of an alternative road? Did the hilly terrain suddenly crop up?” The measures suggested are not feasible as these have proved inefficient both in the past and also on the Kanha-Pench corridor (NH 7), where similar measures were implemented. Imagine the highway expansion to 15 metres with two carriageways. This would surely be a death knell to wildlife in Bandipur said Santosh.
The state forest department has opposed any move to lift the night ban in Bandipur and does not favour measures like flyovers at regular intervals or underpasses. A senior forest official told TNIE, “The chief minister has assured that night closure in Bandipur will continue and the state government opposes the Centre’s suggestion of going in for mitigation measures at NH-212 in Bandipur.”
The prevailing conditions do not permit any changes, says the MoRT/NTCA report. It highlights that no transporters are put to hardship or no vehicles pile up at the entry gates at night times.