Attorney General aims to solve Bandipur row

An elephant crossing the road in Bandipur. (DH Photo by S K Dinesh)

Attorney General K K Venugopal on Monday told the Supreme Court there was a difference of opinion between the Ministries of Road Transport and Highways and Environment and Forest on building an elevated road through Bandipur Tiger Reserve in Chamarajnagar district of Karnataka. He said he would write to them to resolve the issue.

A bench of Justices R F Nariman and Vineet Sharan deferred the matter for three weeks in view of the submission by the top law officer of the country.

As the special leave petition filed by the Kerala government against the night traffic ban came up for hearing, Venugopal submitted that a committee formed following the apex court's order of January 10, 2018, had already given its report. “The Ministry of Road, Transport and Highways and the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change had divergent views. I would write to them to sort out the differences,” he said.

The Road Transport and Highways Ministry had suggested that the court allow movement of transport vehicles 24x7 on the national highway passing through Bandipur Tiger Reserve but only after developing elevated roads. The Environment Ministry had not supported the proposal for elevated roads but suggested strengthening the alternative route.

On Monday, advocate G R Mohan, appearing for an NGO and a group of activists, submitted before the court that the alternative route has already been developed. He sought a direction to enforce the traffic ban even during the day as it was having a detrimental impact on the wildlife habitat.

A report furnished to the top court in October last stated that no consensus could emerge among the states of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu on the issue of lifting night traffic ban during deliberations by a committee. The committee was formed on January 10 on the directions of the apex court following Venugopal's suggestions.

The recommendation for developing an elevated road has seen protests from nature lovers and environmentalists in Karnataka. The state government also opposed it.

The issue before the top court arose out of Kerala government's special leave petition against the Karnataka High Court's order of March 9, 2010, imposing the night traffic ban between 9 pm and 6 am on the national highway passing through Bandipur Tiger Reserve.

The DCF, Tiger Project, Bandipur division had in 2009, passed an order prohibiting all motor vehicles on NH 212.

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Attorney General aims to solve Bandipur row

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