Sunday, January 23, 2022

Night traffic ban in tiger corridor has Kerala’s claws out

The Karnataka government’s decision to ban night traffic along Bangalore-Kozhikode National Highway-212,which cuts through the core area of the Bandipur Tiger Reserve....

Written by Shaju Philip | Thiruvananthapuram |
August 31, 2009 4:25:36 am

The Karnataka government’s decision to ban night traffic along Bangalore-Kozhikode National Highway-212,which cuts through the core area of the Bandipur Tiger Reserve,is turning into an inter-state dispute,with Kerala now planning to approach the Supreme Court. Traders and vehicle operators are also planning protests. The two-hour ban came into effect early this month and will soon be extended to nine hours — from 9 pm to 6 am.

The ban was imposed by the Chamarajanagar district administration on August 18 to prevent wild animals from being hit by speeding vehicles moving through the highway,one of the three major corridors that link Kerala with the rest of the country. The shut down came as a double whammy for Kerala as another inter-state highway cutting across the elephant corridor in the Nagarhole Rajiv Gandhi National Park had been closed for night traffic last year.

Bandipur Tiger Reserve,spread over 1,400 sq km,was established in 1973 as part of Project Tiger,and was declared a core critical tiger habitat in 2007.

Sources in Bandipur Reserve said the ban was introduced as part of the sanctioned management plan for the protected area. After a request from the Forest Department,the district administration slapped the ban in early June,after invoking the Karnataka Motor Vehicle Rule. Though the government tried to delay the ban under duress from Kerala,the Karnataka HC asked the Chamarajanagar administration to immediately implement its order. “The over-speeding and drunken driving along the corridor in the dark was endangering animal life in the sanctuary. In the first seven months of 2009,the Bandipur reserve has registered 56 such cases. All types of the animals in the sanctuary have become casualties. The Kerala route is particularly fatal,” sources said.

According to the highway action plan leader P Krishnaprasad,a CPI (M) legislator in Kerala,Karnataka should have tried alternative measures. “Instead of banning traffic,speed regulations should have been imposed along the forest stretch. Speed should be monitored and recorded at entry and exit points at the reserve,apart from implementing a public alert system,” he said,adding the “increase in animal population has aggravated the problem”.

Karnataka officials,however,said there had been no improvement even after an attempt was made to regulate speed through a warning system. They also noted that there was no rationale in linking the accidents with the growth in animal population.

As the court had posted the case for November,Kerala plans to move the SC to get the ban lifted or the hearing advanced. Traders and vehicle operators have also planned various modes of agitation against traffic regulation. The ban would also distress the tourism industry in Wayanad hill station,which mainly depends on the weekend IT clientele from Bangalore.

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