Environmentalists have urged the state government not to concede to demands of Goa for the extension of timings for movement of vehicles at night inside the forests of Khanapur and Anmod, as it would adversely impact animals’ movement and result in roadkill.
Based on a request from Goa, the Public Works Minister H D Revanna has requested the Union government to allow movement of light vehicles between Khanapur to Anmod (Goa border) via Hemmadaga. Currently, vehicles are not allowed to use this highway between 6 pm and 6 am.
Goa Public Works Minister Ramakrishna Javadekar has asked the Karnataka government to allow movement of vehicles till 9 pm as work on widening National Highway 4A is being undertaken at an estimated cost of Rs 1,342 crore. The road passes through Bhimgad and Dandeli sanctuaries, which are important tiger habitats.
Wildlife activist Giridhar Kulkarni said animals have already accustomed themselves to the present conditions and any changes in the timings will disturb their movements and may also result in mortalities.
Both Bhimgad and Dandeli sanctuaries neighbour Kali tiger reserve, Mhadei sanctuary and other protected areas and the entire region has a satisfactory population of tigers. Many animals like gaur, leopard, chital, sambar, porcupine, jackal, small Indian civet, common palm civet, brown palm civet, leopard cat, king cobra, sand boa and monitor lizard have died in vehicular collisions on roads passing through the forest areas of Belagavi and Uttara Kannada districts.
Kulkarni cites the recommendations of the sub-committee appointed by the Ministry of Environment and Forests that night traffic ban should be applied in core/critical tiger habitat/national parks and sanctuaries by providing passes to local people, so that the night ban does not affect their day-to-day life.
Keeping this in mind, deputy commissioners of both the districts had imposed a ban on the movement of vehicles (except local vehicles) on this road since 2015.
There are two alternative ways to reach Goa via Chorla and Amboli, both of which are in good condition and commuters can use this road without difficulty.
Forest department officials say that the extension of time is not a permanent, but a temporary arrangement.
Speaking to DH, principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) Jayarama said deputy commissioners of respective districts will take a call on allowing vehicles through the forest. If it is allowed, vehicles will pass through a stretch of eight km inside the forest, till the work on NH4A is completed.
Environmentalists fear that conceding to Goa’s demand will end up in a manner similar to Bandipur, where night traffic movement was banned after 9 pm, which led the Kerala government to demand that the ban on traffic for the entire night be lifted or an elevated corridor be constructed. “We don’t want a similar thing to happen in Khanapur,” Kulkarni said.